Fracture of interlocking asperities during sliding contact plays a central role in determining friction and wear of brittle materials. The local force to break surface asperities and subsurface crack propagation directly affect the frictional force, wear rate and evolution of surface roughness. Here, we study the fracture failure of an isolated asperity under a lateral contacting force using a systematic set of experiments and numerical simulations. Combining the generalized elastic fracture mechanics and the Euler-Bernoulli beam theory, we also develop an analytical model to predict the critical force at the onset of asperity fracture as a function of the asperity's shape and material properties. The developed model can be used to develop physics-based friction and wear models for brittle solids.
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