A new study on “waves (or fronts) of detachment” involved in the process of friction offers a new perspective on an old scientific puzzle and could provide a key to improving predictions of future earthquakes, say scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Top illustration shows two surfaces, greatly enlarged, with the microcontacts connecting them. In the middle illustration, the surfaces are starting to move against each other, with the microcontacts being broken. In the bottom drawing, sliding takes place as a slow-motion wave (white area) moves between the surfaces.
The work of the scientists, Prof Jay Fineberg, head of the Hebrew University’s Racah Institute of Physics, Dr Gil Cohen and graduate student Shmuel N Rubinstein, is described in an article in the journal Nature entitled “Detachment Fronts and the Onset of Dynamic Friction.”
Though studied for hundreds of years by names as distinguished as Leonardo da Vinci, and physicists Charles Augustin de Coulomb and Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the study of friction remains as intriguingly current today as it was 500 years ago. Scientists have yet to fully decipher the fundamental mechanisms of friction – that is, what goes on when two surfaces begin to slide against one another?
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