Dept. of Geosciences Colloquium: The Fundamental Physics of the Onset of Frictional Motion: How do laboratory earthquakes nucleate?

Professor Jay Fineberg, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

26 February 2024, 11:00 
Ornstein Building, Room 111 
Dept. of Geosciences Colloquium




Recent experiments have demonstrated that rapid rupture fronts, akin to earthquakes, mediate the transition to frictional motion. Moreover, once these dynamic rupture fronts (“laboratory earthquakes”) are created, their singular form, dynamics and arrest are well-described by fracture mechanics. Ruptures, however, need to be created within initially rough frictional interfaces, before they are able to propagate. This is the reason that “static friction coefficients” are not well-defined; frictional ruptures can nucleate for a wide range of applied forces. A critical open question is, therefore, how the nucleation of rupture fronts actually takes place. We experimentally demonstrate that rupture front nucleation is prefaced by extremely slow, aseismic, nucleation fronts. These nucleation fronts, which are often self-similar, are not described by our current understanding of fracture mechanics. The nucleation fronts emerge from initially rough frictional interfaces at well-defined stress thresholds, evolve at characteristic velocity and time scales governed by stress levels, and propagate within a frictional interface to form the initial rupture from which fracture mechanics take over. These results are of fundamental importance to questions ranging from earthquake nucleation and prediction to processes governing material failure. 



[1]   Gvirtzman, S and Fineberg, J. , “Nucleation fronts ignite the interface rupture that initiates frictional motion”, Nature Physics 17, 1037-1042 (2021).

[2]   S. Gvirtzman and J. Fineberg, The initiation of frictional motion - the nucleation dynamics of frictional ruptures, JGR 128, e2022JB025483 (2023).



Event Organizer: Dr. Roy Barkan



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