On the effect of the loading apparatus stiffness on the equilibrium and stability of soft adhesive contacts under shear loads
The interaction between contact area and frictional forces in adhesive soft contacts is receiving much attention in the scientific community due to its implications in many areas of engineering such as surface haptics and bioinspired adhesives. In this work, we consider a soft adhesive sphere that is pressed against a rigid substrate and is sheared by a tangential force where the loads are transferred to the sphere through a normal and a tangential spring, representing the loading apparatus stiffness. We derive a general linear elastic fracture mechanics solution, taking into account also the interaction between modes, by adopting a simple but effective mixed-mode model that has been recently validated against experimental results in similar problems. We discuss how the spring stiffness affects the stability of the equilibrium contact solution, i.e. the transition to separation or to sliding.