Statistical laws of stick-slip friction at mesoscale

Caishan Yan, Hsuan Yi Chen, Pik Yin Lai, Penger Tong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Friction between two rough solid surfaces often involves local stick-slip events occurring at different locations of the contact interface. If the apparent contact area is large, multiple local slips may take place simultaneously and the total frictional force is a sum of the pinning forces imposed by many asperities on the interface. Here, we report a systematic study of stick-slip friction over a mesoscale contact area using a hanging-beam lateral atomic-force-microscope, which is capable of resolving frictional force fluctuations generated by individual slip events and measuring their statistical properties at the single-slip resolution. The measured probability density functions (PDFs) of the slip length δ xs, the maximal force Fc needed to trigger the local slips, and the local force gradient k of the asperity-induced pinning force field provide a comprehensive statistical description of stick-slip friction that is often associated with the avalanche dynamics at a critical state. In particular, the measured PDF of δ xs obeys a power law distribution and the power-law exponent is explained by a new theoretical model for the under-damped spring-block motion under a Brownian-correlated pinning force field. This model provides a long-sought physical mechanism for the avalanche dynamics in stick-slip friction at mesoscale.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6221
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


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