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A new generation of experiments on dry macroscopic friction has revealed that the transition from static to dynamic friction is essentially a spatially and temporally non-uniform process, initiated by a rupture-like detachment front. We show the suitability of the Frenkel-Kontorova model for describing this transition. The model predicts the existence of two types of detachment fronts, explaining both the variability and abrupt change of velocity observed in experiments. The quantitative relation obtained between the velocity of the detachment front and the ratio of shear to normal stress is consistent with experiments. The model provides a functional dependence between slip velocity and shear stress, and predicts that slip velocity is independent of normal stress. Paradoxically, the transition from static to dynamic friction does not depend explicitly on ether the static or the dynamic friction coefficient, although the beginning and end of transition process are controlled by these coefficients.


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