Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics Predicts the Propagation Distance of Frictional Slip
When a frictional interface is subject to a localized shear load, it is often (experimentally) observed that local slip events propagate until they arrest naturally before reaching the edge of the interface. We develop a theoretical model based on linear elastic fracture mechanics to describe the propagation of such precursory slip. The model's prediction of precursor lengths as a function of external load is in good quantitative agreement with laboratory experiments as well as with dynamic simulations, and provides thereby evidence to recognize frictional slip as a fracture phenomenon. We show that predicted precursor lengths depend, within given uncertainty ranges, mainly on the kinetic friction coefficient, and only weakly on other interface and material parameters. By simplifying the fracture mechanics model, we also reveal sources for the observed nonlinearity in the growth of precursor lengths as a function of the applied force. The discrete nature of precursors as well as the shear tractions caused by frustrated Poisson's expansion is found to be the dominant factors. Finally, we apply our model to a different, symmetric setup and provide a prediction of the propagation distance of frictional slip for future experiments.