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.
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