Laboratory test on crack development in mudstone under the action of dry-wet cycles

  • Ming Hu
  • Yuanxue LiuEmail author
  • Jianbo Ren
  • Runze Wu
  • Yu Zhang
Original Paper


Rock masses in southwest China are dominated by alternating layers of sandstone and mudstone. When exposed to natural conditions, mudstone is vulnerable to disintegration, causing the overlying sandstone to be extremely likely to collapse under the action of a load or other conditions. An effective and innovative experimental method to characterize weathering processes would contribute to collapse prevention. In this study, a customized test unit, including a model test container, a lever-loading device and a thermostat-controlled heating plate, was applied to explore the mechanism of crack development in mudstone over multiple dry-wet cycles. The crack width, vertical displacement and wetted area were measured to analyse the slaking mechanism acting during these cycles. The results show that tiny cracks appeared on the surface of the sample after heating and that the vertical displacement increased in the upward direction because of swelling of mudstone. The crack width expanded with increasing water exposure, but after the water infiltrated the surface of the sample, the crack width decreased. The external surface of the sample was gradually infiltrated in the second dry-wet cycle, and the infiltration area increased continually. The infiltrating speed grew progressively faster with each cycle, and the number and size of internal cracks monotonically increased. The sample fractured as a result of crack extension. These results have theoretical significance regarding the ground collapse of alternating layers of sandstone and mudstone.


Mudstone Crack development Dry-wet cycles Temperature-induced stress Fluid effects 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Chongqing Research Program of Basic Research and Frontier Technology (No. cstc2015jcyjBX0073) and the science and technology project of Land Resources and Real Estate Management Bureau of Chongqing Government (No. CQGT-KJ-2014052).


  1. Al-homoud AS, Kuoury H, Al-Omari YA (1996) Mineralogical and engineering properties of problematic expansive clayey beds causing landslides. Bull Eng Geol Environ 54:13–31. doi: 10.1007/BF02600651 Google Scholar
  2. Arnould M (2006) Discontinuity networks in mudstones: a geological approach—implic ations for radioactive wastes isolation in deep geological formations in Belgium, France, Switzerland. Bull Eng Geol Environ 65(4):413–422. doi: 10.1007/s10064-006-0060-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ashby MF, Raj R, Gifkins C (1970) Diffusion controlled sliding at a serrated grain boundary. Scr Metall 4(9):737–741. doi: 10.1016/0036-9748(70)90216-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bozzano F, Gaeta M, Marcoccia S (2006) Weathering of valle ricca stiff and jointed clay. Eng Geol 84(3–4):161–182. doi: 10.1016/j.enggeo.2005.11.010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cantón Y, Solé-Benet A, Queralt I, Pini R (2001) Weathering of a gypsum-calcareous mudstone under semi-arid environment at Tabernas, SE Spain: laboratory and field based experimental approaches. Catena 44(2):111–132. doi: 10.1016/S0341-8162(00)00153-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Doostmohammadi R, Moosavi M, Mutschler TH, Osan C (2009) Influence of cyclic wetting and drying on swelling behavior of mudstone in south west of Iran. Environ Geol 58:999–1009. doi: 10.1007/s00254-008-1579-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eeckhout EMV (1976) The mechanisms of strength reduction due to moisture in coal mine shales. Int J Rock Mech min Sci Geomech Abstr 13(2):61–67. doi: 10.1016/0148-9062(76)90705-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Einstein HH (1996) Tunnelling in difficult ground—swelling behaviour and identification of swelling rocks. Rock Mech Rock Eng 29(3):113–124. doi: 10.1007/BF01032649 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Erguler ZA, Shakoor A (2009) Relative contribution of various climatic processes in disintegration of clay-bearing rocks. Eng Geol 108(1–2):36–42. doi: 10.1016/j.enggeo.2009.06.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Erguler ZA, Ulusay R (2009) Water-induced variations in mechanical properties of clay-bearing rocks. Int J Rock Mech min 46(2):355–370. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrmms.2008.07.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gamble JC (1971) Durability-plasticity classification of shales and other argillaceous rock. Dissertation, University of IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  12. Goodman RE (1989) Introduction to rock mechanics, 2nd edn. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Gautam TP, Shakoor A (2013) Slaking behavior of clay-bearing rocks during a one-year exposure to natural climatic conditions. Eng Geol 166:17–25. doi: 10.1016/j.enggeo.2013.08.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guo YC, Xie Q, Wen JQ (2012) Effect of the alternation of heat and water on the slaking phenomenon of redbeds. Hydrogeol Eng Geol 39(5):69–73 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  15. Higuchi K, Chigira M, Lee D-H, Wu J-H (2014) Rapid weathering and erosion of mudstone induced by saltwater migration near a slope surface. J Hydrol Eng 20(6):C6014004. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)HE.1943-5584.0001105 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Imumorin P, Azam S (2011) Effect of precipitation on the geological development of badlands in arid regions. Bull Eng Geol Environ 70(2):223–229. doi: 10.1007/s 10064 - 010-0300-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jiang Q, Cui J, Feng XT, Jiang Y (2014) Application of computerized tomographic scanning to the study of water-induced weakening of mudstone. Bull Eng Geol Environ 73(4):1293–1301. doi: 10.1007/s10064-014-0597-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kang HP (1994) Rock damage caused by water. Hydrogeol Eng Geol 3:39–41 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  19. Lee D-H, Chen PY, Wu J-H et al (2013) Method of mitigating the surface erosion of a high-gradient mudstone slope in southwest Taiwan. Bull Eng Geol Environ 72(3):533–545. doi: 10.1007/s10064-013-0518-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lashkaripour GR (2002) Predicting mechanical properties of mudrock from index parameters. Bull Eng Geol Environ 61(1):73–77. doi: 10.1007/s10064100116 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lashkaripour GR, Boomeri M (2002) The role of mineralogy on durability of weak rocks. J Appl Sci 2(6):698–701. doi: 10.3923/jas.2002.698.701 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Li WT (2004) The theory analysis and application of thermal stress. China Electric Power Press, Beijing (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  23. Lu Y, Wang L, Sun X, Wang J (2016) Experimental study of the influence of water and temperature on the mechanical behavior of mudstone and sandstone. Bull Eng Geol Environ:1–16. doi: 10.1007/s10064-016-0851-0
  24. Molinda GM, Oyler DC, Gurgenli H (2006) Identifying moisture sensitive roof rocks in coal mines. Proceedings of 25th International Conference on Ground Control in Mining. West Virginia University, Morgantown, pp 57–64Google Scholar
  25. Ojo O, Brook N (1990) The effect of moisture on some mechanical properties of rock. Min Sci Technol 10(2):145–156. doi: 10.1016/0167-9031(90)90158-O CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Phienwej N (1987) Ground response and support performance in a sheared shale, Stillwater Tunnel. Dissertation, University of IllinoisGoogle Scholar
  27. Poulsen BA, Shen B, Williams DJ, Huddlestone-Holmes C, Erarslan N, Qin J (2014) Strength reduction on saturation of coal and coal measures rocks with implications for coal pillar strength. Int J Rock Mech min 71:41–52. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrmms.2014.06.012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pejon OJ, Zuquette LV (2002) Analysis of cyclic swelling of mudrocks. Eng Geol 67(1–2):97–108. doi: 10.1016/S0013-7952(02)00147-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Qi J, Sui W, Liu Y, Zhang D (2015) Slaking process and mechanisms under static wetting and drying cycles slaking tests in a red strata mudstone. Geotech Geol Eng 33(4):959–972. doi: 10.1007/s10706-015-9878-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Silva MRD, Schroeder C, Verbrugge J-C (2008) Unsaturated rock mechanics applied to a low-porosity shale. Eng Geol 97(1–2):42–52. doi: 10.1016/j. enggeo. 2007. 12. 003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Seedsman RW (1993) Characterizing clay shales. In: Hudson JA (ed) comprehensive rock engineering, vol. 3. Pergamon Press, Oxford, pp 151-164Google Scholar
  32. Tang SB, Tang CA, Zhu WC et al (2006) Numerical investigation on rock failures process induced by thermal stress. Chin J Rock Mech Eng 25(10):2071–2078 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  33. Wu YQ, Zhang ZY (1995) An introduction to rock mass hydraulics. Southwest jiaotong university press, Chengdu (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  34. Yoshida N, Nishi M, Kitamura M, Adachi T (1997) Analysis of mudstone deterioration and its effect on tunnel performance. Int J rock Mech min Sci 34(3-4): 353. e1–353. e19. doi:  10.1016/S1365-1609(97)00289-X
  35. Yang JL, Wang LG, Li XL, Zhao G (2014) Research on micro-fracture mechanism of mudstone after wet-dry cycles. Chin J Rock Mech Eng 33(A02):3606–3612. (in Chinese). doi: 10.13722/j.cnki.jrme.2014.s2.027 Google Scholar
  36. Yang ZC, Zhang JY, Zhou DP (2006) Study on fast weathering characteristics of red bed mudstone slope. Chin J Rock Mech Eng 25(2):275–283 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  37. Zhang H, Adoko AC, Meng Z, Wang H, Jiao Y (2017) Mechanism of the mudstone tunnel failures induced by expansive clay minerals. Geotech Geol Eng 35(1):263–275. doi: 10.1007/s10706-016-0102-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zhang SX (2008) Research on relationship between substantial composing and mechanical parameters of mudstone in Chongqing. Dissertation, Chongqing Jiaotong University (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  39. Zhang D, Chen A, Wang X, Liu G (2015) Quantitative determination of the effect of temperature on mudstone decay during wet-dry cycles: a case study of ‘purple mudstone’ from south-western china. Geomorphology 246:1–6. doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.06.011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zhang D, Chen A, Wang X, Yan B, Shi L, Liu G (2016) A quantitative determination of the effect of moisture on purple mudstone decay in southwestern China. Catena 139:28–31. doi: 10.1016/j.catena.2015.12.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zhu ZD, Hu D (2000) The effect of intestitial water pressure on rock mass strength. Rock Soil Mech 21(1):64–67 (in Chinese)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ming Hu
    • 1
  • Yuanxue Liu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jianbo Ren
    • 1
  • Runze Wu
    • 1
  • Yu Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.Chongqing Key Laboratory of Geomechanics and Geoenvironment ProtectionPeople’s Liberation Army Logistical Engineering UniversityChongqingChina

Personalised recommendations