pure and applied geophysics

, Volume 143, Issue 1–3, pp 303–315 | Cite as

Micromechanics of the velocity and normal stress dependence of rock friction

  • Weibin Wang
  • Christopher H. Scholz
Rock Friction and Shear Zone Mechanics: Laboratory Studies


Among the second-order effects on friction the most important are those of variable normal stress and of slip velocity. Velocity weakening, which is usually considered the source of the stick-slip instability in rock friction, has been observed in velocity stepping experiments with Westerly granite. The friction change, Δμ, was −0.01 to −0.008 for a tenfold velocity increase. Using normal closure measurements, we observed dilation upon each increase in sliding rate. We also observed, for the first time, time-dependent closure between surfaces during static loading. The dilation that occurred during the velocity stepping experiment was found to be that expected from the static time-dependent closure phenomenon. This change in closure was used to predict friction change with an elastic contact model. The calculated friction change which results from a change in contact area and asperity interlocking, is in good agreement with the observed velocity dependence of steady-state friction. Variable normal stress during sliding has two effects, first in creating new partial slip contacts and locking some existing fully sliding contacts and second in increasing interlocking, for instance when normal load is suddenly increased. As a result, a transient change in friction occurs upon a sudden change in normal load.

Key words

Friction earthquakes faulting rock properties 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Weibin Wang
    • 1
  • Christopher H. Scholz
    • 1
  1. 1.Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Department of Geological SciencesColumbia UniversityPalisadesU.S.A.

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