Back to overview

The Emergence of Crack-like Behavior of Frictional Rupture: The Origin of Stress Drops

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Barras Fabian, Aldam Michael, Roch Thibault, Brener Efim A., Bouchbinder Eran, Molinari Jean-Francois,
Project Contact mechanics of rough surfaces
Show all

Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Physical Review X
Title of proceedings Physical Review X


The failure of frictional interfaces - the process of frictional rupture - is widely assumed to feature crack-like properties, with far-reaching implications for various disciplines, ranging from engineering tribology to earthquake physics. Yet, how the effective crack-like behavior emerges from basic physics and what its range of validity is are not understood. Here we show that for rapid rupture a finite and well-defined stress drop, which is a necessary condition for the existence of a crack-like behavior, is directly related to wave radiation from the frictional interface to the bulks surrounding it (the so-called radiation damping effect) and to long-range bulk elastodynamics, and not exclusively to interfacial physics. Furthermore, we show that the emergence of a stress drop is a finite time effect, mainly limited by the wave travel time in finite systems. The results for rapid rupture are supplemented by predictions for slow rupture. All of the theoretical predictions are supported by available experimental data and by extensive computations. They offer a comprehensive and basic understanding of why, how and to what extent frictional rupture might be viewed as an ordinary fracture process.