Difference Between Abrasion and Attrition (With Table)

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Abrasion and Attrition are terms that are widely used in the field of geology. Essentially, they are processes that are related to the occurrence of surface damage. They can be looked at as different kinds of erosion. However, these terms are almost unheard of in layman conversations. So, knowing the difference between them might be quite a difficult thing.

Abrasion vs Attrition

The difference between abrasion and attrition is that abrasion is a very slow process that is mainly caused due to the rubbing of surfaces whereas attrition is a relatively faster process that is caused when surfaces hit each other. Both the processes are similar to erosion. However, they have different influencing factors and results.

Abrasion can be looked at as an occurrence of friction being caused due to scratching, rubbing, scuffing, and marring of two or more surfaces. It can either be a controlled process that is done intentionally or a completely undesirable one caused by exposure to unwanted substances. The process has applications in various industries.

Meanwhile, attrition occurs when surfaces hit each other and cause erosion. It is a relatively faster process as compared to abrasion and does not involve any kind of friction. Due to attrition, a lot of wearing down is caused to the surfaces that are involved. The process can most commonly be found in coastal regions.

Comparison Table Between Abrasion and Attrition

Parameters of ComparisonAbrasionAttrition
MeaningAbrasion is a process of wearing down because of sediment transportation.Attrition is a process of reduction of particles during erosion.
RateIt takes a long time for surfaces to undergo this process.The process takes place in a quick manner.
CausesIt is caused by friction between surfaces in motion.It is caused by the collision of surfaces.
Influencing FactorsIt is affected by the density, weight, velocity, and texture of the materials that make up the surface.It is affected by the shape, size, hardness, cracks, and porosity of the surface.
LocationAbrasion can occur in a variety of places where rocks and other sediments are present.Attrition most commonly occurs in areas where water bodies are present.

What is Abrasion?

Abrasion is a process in which surfaces undergo a certain degree of damage while in motion. This is mainly caused due to friction. The process falls under the category of erosion. It is slow and takes place over a considerably long duration. When surfaces scratch, wear down, scruff, or rub against each other, abrasion takes place.

The intensity with which two surfaces undergo abrasion depends on a variety of factors. Some of them include the density, weight, velocity, and texture of the materials that make up the surface. If the materials are lightweight and loosely placed together, abrasion happens at a faster rate. However, if they are heavy, hard, and tightly packed, abrasion takes place very slowly.

Abrasion may affect just one surface, or all the surfaces involved. At times, construction industries carry out the process in an intentional and controlled manner. However, when they occur naturally, they can be classified under four major categories – wind abrasion, coastal abrasion, glaciation, and channel transport.

Wind abrasion occurs when small stones and sand rub against surfaces on being transported by wind. Coastal abrasion occurs due to objects flowing in water. Glaciation occurs when ice rubs against rock surfaces. Lastly, channel transport occurs when objects flow through river channels.

What is Attrition?

Attrition is a process that generally takes place in areas where water bodies are present. However, it must not be confused with coastal abrasion. Attrition is caused when surfaces hit against each other, causing them to break or wear down. Unlike attrition, the process takes place quickly. There is no friction involved.

A great example would be the process of attrition in riverbeds. The surface present at the bottom of a river is made of a variety of hard sediments. However, when other hard objects flow along with the current of water, they often tend to hit the bottom surface. When this happens, there is a certain amount of damage that is caused.

The amount of damage caused depends on a variety of factors. For example, if cracks were already present on a particular rock and another rock collided with it, it would be damaged much more intensely. However, if a soft object hit the same rock, the damage would not be much.

Regardless, a lot have measures have been invented by people in order to control this process. One of them is a seawall. Through this, all the solid objects flowing through water get filtered out at an early stage.

Main Differences Between Abrasion and Attrition

  1. Abrasion is a process of wearing down because of sediment transportation whereas attrition is a process of reduction of particles during erosion.
  2. It takes a long time for surfaces to undergo abrasion whereas attrition takes place in a quick manner.
  3. Abrasion is mainly caused because of friction that takes place between surfaces in motion whereas attrition is caused by the collision of surfaces.
  4. Abrasion is influenced by density, weight, velocity, and texture of the materials of the surface whereas attrition is influenced by the shape, size, hardness, cracks, and porosity of the surface.
  5. Abrasion can be seen in a variety of places where rocks and other sediments are present whereas attrition is generally seen in areas where water bodies are present.

Conclusion

Abrasion and attrition are two erosive processes. However, they have subtle differences between the. The most notable one is that abrasion is caused because of the friction that takes place between two surfaces that are moving. On the other hand, attrition takes place when surfaces collide against each other and cause damage.

Both the processes take a different amount of time to show results. Comparatively, abrasion is a much slower one. The damage caused by it can be seen only after a considerably long duration. Meanwhile, attrition takes place in a quick manner. The damage can be seen almost instantly. Moreover, abrasion can be seen in a variety of places whereas attrition is mostly seen in water bodies.

References

  1. https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/qjegh/article/7/1/69/327216
  2. https://bioone.org/journals/American-Museum-Novitates/volume-225/issue-4/0003-0082(2000)301%3C0001:FCOUMU%3E2.0.CO;2/Functional-Characterization-of-Ungulate-Molars-Using-the-Abrasion-Attrition-Wear/10.1206/0003-0082(2000)301%3C0001:FCOUMU%3E2.0.CO;2.short
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