Frictional weakening of slip interfaces
When two objects are in contact, the force necessary to overcome friction is larger than the force necessary to keep sliding motion going. This difference between static and dynamic friction is usually attributed to the growth of the area of real contact between rough surfaces in time when the system is at rest. We directly measure the area of real contact and show that it actually increases during macroscopic slip, despite the fact that dynamic friction is smaller than static friction. This signals a decrease in the interfacial shear strength, the friction per unit contact area, which is due to a mechanical weakening of the asperities. This provides a novel explanation for stick-slip phenomena in, e.g., earthquakes.