Environmental Earth Sciences

, 77:652 | Cite as

X-ray micro-computed tomography study of the propagation of cracks in shale during uniaxial compression

  • Baicun YangEmail author
  • Lei XueEmail author
  • Ke Zhang
Original Article


An understanding of crack propagation is critical for the development of rock mechanic models. To study the propagation of internal cracks in situ and determine their formation mechanism, a series of uniaxial compression tests on shale specimens were conducted using a novel setup that combines X-ray micro-computed tomography (X-ray micro-CT) with a uniaxial loading apparatus, which allows CT scans to be performed during compression. Macro- and micro-scale internal cracks were extracted from CT images collected after various stages of deformation through image thresholding segmentation, providing a record of the evolution of damage within the specimens, characterized by crack closure, generation, growth, and penetration. In addition, macroscopic cracks with two distinct orientations were observed and their formation mechanism was further determined. Furthermore, test results show that the distribution of pyrite grains influences the formation of cracks at the meso- and macro-scales. These results are significant for understanding crack propagation and the failure of shale.


X-ray micro-CT Crack propagation Damage evolution Failure mechanism En echelon cracks 



This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant no. XDB10030302). We thank Jin Hao for experimental support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Shale Gas and Geoengineering, Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Institutions of Earth ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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