The onset of the frictional motion of dissimilar materials

Hadar Shlomai, David S. Kammer, Mokhtar Adda-Bedia, Jay Fineberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Frictional motion between contacting bodies is governed by propagating rupture fronts that are essentially earthquakes. These fronts break the contacts composing the interface separating the bodies to enable their relative motion. The most general type of frictional motion takes place when the two bodies are not identical. Within these so-called bimaterial interfaces, the onset of frictional motion is often mediated by highly localized rupture fronts, called slip pulses. Here, we show how this unique rupture mode develops, evolves, and changes the character of the interface's behavior. Bimaterial slip pulses initiate as "subshear" cracks (slower than shear waves) that transition to developed slip pulses where normal stresses almost vanish at their leading edge. The observed slip pulses propagate solely within a narrow range of "transonic" velocities, bounded between the shear wave velocity of the softer material and a limiting velocity. We derive analytic solutions for both subshear cracks and the leading edge of slip pulses. These solutions both provide an excellent description of our experimental measurements and quantitatively explain slip pulses' limiting velocities. We furthermore find that frictional coupling between local normal stress variations and frictional resistance actually promotes the interface separation that is critical for slip-pulse localization. These results provide a full picture of slippulse formation and structure that is important for our fundamental understanding of both earthquake motion and the most general types of frictional processes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)13379-13385
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - 16 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

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  • Earthquake dynamics
  • Fracture
  • Friction
  • Rupture fronts
  • Seismic radiation


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