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Complexities of rock fracture and rock friction from deformation of Westerly granite

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A series of rock friction experiments has been carried out to study the complexities in rock fracture and rock friction. Intact Westerly granite samples were loaded to shear failure in a laboratory polyaxial loading apparatus. The resultant fractured samples were reloaded to cause frictional sliding. Both polyaxial loading (σ1 > σ2 > σ3 > 0) and equal confining condition (σ1 > σ2 = σ3 > 0) were used. The deformation processes were monitored by macroscopic axial stress-strain, optical holography, and ultrasonic velocity measurements.

Intense localized deformation along the fracture occurred very early in the loading of fractured samples. Contacts on the fracture surfaces continuously broke during loading. No acoustic velocity anomaly was observed for the fractured sample, in contrast to a ∼25% drop in the velocity before the failure of the corresponding intact sample. The current study and previous research suggest that the deformation localization is an important process in governing the instability of rock friction. Instability analysis of rock friction needs to include not only the deformation processes along the sliding surfaces, but also those adjacent to the fractures such as the localized deformation along the fractures observed in the current study. The instability analysis of rock friction with rate- and state-dependent friction laws does not specifically include the deformation localization adjacent to the faults and thus ignores an important class of instability as described byRudnicki (1977).

A dependence of frictional strengths on the stress components normal to the sliding and in the plane of the fracture surface was observed. This dependence can be understood by considering the loading of the irregular fracture surface under polyaxial loading conditions. This observation requires the friction laws in the macroscopic scale to be modified for those cases where the three principal stresses (σ1, σ2, and σ3) are significantly different.

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Chen, G., Spetzler, H. Complexities of rock fracture and rock friction from deformation of Westerly granite. PAGEOPH 140, 95–121 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00876873

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Key words

  • Shear fracture
  • frictional yield
  • polyaxial loading
  • localized deformation