Influences of microcontact shape on the state of a frictional interface

Tom Pilvelait, Sam Dillavou, Shmuel M. Rubinstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The real area of contact of a frictional interface changes rapidly when the normal load is altered, and evolves slowly when the normal load is held constant, aging over time. Traditionally, the total area of contact is considered a proxy for the frictional strength of the interface. Here, we show that the state of a frictional interface is not entirely defined by the total real area of contact but depends on the geometrical nature of that contact as well. We directly visualize an interface between rough elastomers and smooth glass and identify that normal loading and frictional aging evolve the interface differently, even at a single contact level. We introduce a protocol wherein the real area of contact is held constant in time. Under these conditions, the interface is continually evolving; small contacts shrink and large contacts coarsen.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number012056
JournalPhysical Review Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 authors. Published by the American Physical Society. Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article's title, journal citation, and DOI.


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