Michele Ciavarella, Antonio Papangelo

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In a recent paper in Science, namely, “The Contact Sport of Rough Surfaces”, Carpick summarizes recent efforts in a “contact challenge” to predict in detail an elastic contact between the mathematically defined fractal rough surfaces under (very little) adhesion. He also suggests the next steps that are needed to “fulfill da Vinci’s dream of understanding what causes friction”. However, this is disappointing as friction has been studied since the times of Leonardo and in 500 years, no predictive model has emerged, nor any significant improvement from rough contact models. Similarly, a very large effort we have spent on the “sport” of studying rough surfaces has not made us any closer to being able to predict the coefficient of proportionality between wear loss and friction dissipation which was already observed by Reye in 1860. Recent nice simulations by Aghababaei, Warner and Molinari have confirmed the criterion for the formation of debris of a single particle, proposed in 1958 by Rabinowicz, as well as Reye’s assumption for the proportionality with frictional loss, which is very close to Archard anyway. More recent investigations under variable loads suggest that Reye’s assumption is probably much more general than Archard’s law. The attempts to obtain exact coefficients with rough surfaces models are very far from predictive, essentially because for fractals most authors fail to recognize that resolution-dependence of the contact area makes the models very ill-defined. We also suggest that in the models of wear, rough contacts should be considered “plastic” and “adhesive” and introduce a new length scale in the problem.


Rough Contact, Fractals, Adhesive Wear, Reye’s Law, Archard’s Law, Rabinowicz’ Criterion

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