Probing locally the onset of slippage at a model multicontact interface

Phys Rev Lett. 2014 Mar 7;112(9):094301. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.094301. Epub 2014 Mar 4.


We report on the multicontact frictional dynamics of model elastomer surfaces rubbed against bare glass slides. The surfaces consist of layers patterned with thousands of spherical caps distributed both spatially and in height, regularly or randomly. Use of spherical asperities yields circular microcontacts whose radii are a direct measure of the contact pressure distribution. Optical tracking of individual contacts provides the in-plane deformations of the tangentially loaded interface, yielding the shear force distribution. We then investigate the stick-slip frictional dynamics of a regular hexagonal array. For all stick phases, slip precursors are evidenced and found to propagate quasistatically, normally to the isopressure contours. A simple quasistatic model relying on the existence of interfacial stress gradients is derived and predicts qualitatively the position of slip precursors.