Effect of wetting and drying cycles on microstructure of rock based on SEM

  • Xiaojie Yang
  • Jiamin WangEmail author
  • Chun ZhuEmail author
  • Manchao He
  • Yang Gao
Original Article


To study the effect of periodic water circulation on rock mass, chlorite–amphibolite rocks from the slope of Nanfen open-pit iron mine in Liaoning province were chosen as the engineering samples and were investigated using uniaxial compressive experiment and scanning electron microscopy. The effect of different wetting and drying cycles on the mechanical properties and microstructure of the rocks was investigated. The characteristics of pore parameters from the SEM images were obtained by Image Pro Plus image processing software. The results show that with the increase in number of wetting and drying cycles, the uniaxial compressive strength of the rock decreases and the porosity increases significantly. The weakening of macroscopic mechanical properties of rocks is closely related to the changes in microstructures of rocks. The water–rock interaction changes the size, shape and porosity of the rock pores and then affects its mechanical properties. Based on the combination of macro and micro, quantitative analysis of the weakening process of rocks subjected to wet and dry cycles can provide a better reference index for evaluating the stability of geotechnical engineering.


Scanning electron microscope Microstructure Wetting and drying cycle Image Pro Plus Pore characteristics 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 41672347) and Natural Science Foundation of Beijing Municipality (no. 8142032). We also express our thanks to the reviewers for their time and effort to review this paper.


  1. Devarapalli RS, Islam A, Faisal TF et al (2017) Micro-CT and FIB–SEM imaging and pore structure characterization of dolomite rock at multiple scales. Arab J Geosci 10(16):361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Doostmohammadi R, Moosavi M, Mutschler T et al (2009) Influence of cyclic wetting and drying on swelling behavior of mudstone in south west of Iran. Environ Geol 58(5):999–1009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Gökceoğlu C, Ulusay R, Sönmez H (2000) Factors affecting the durability of selected weak and clay-bearing rocks from Turkey, with particular emphasis on the influence of the number of drying and wetting cycles. Eng Geol 57(3–4):215–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Guo HY (2011) Experimental Study on Hydrophilic Characteristics of Deep Soft Rock of Da-qiang Coal Mine in Liao Ning. China University of Mining and Technology, Beijing. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  5. Hale PA, Shakoor A (2003) A laboratory investigation of the effects of cyclic heating and cooling, wetting and drying, and freezing and thawing on the compressive strength of selected sandstones. Environ Eng Geosci 9(2):117–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. He MC, Zhang GF, Zhao J (2011) Intelligent test system for water absorption of deep soft rock. China National invention patent, CN201110156438.5. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  7. Hoven SJV, Solomon DK, Moline GR (2003) Modeling unsaturated flow and transport in the saprolite of fractured sedimentary rocks: Effects of periodic wetting and drying. Water Resour Res 39(7):1186Google Scholar
  8. Hua W, Dong SM, Li YF et al (2015) The influence of cyclic wetting and drying on the fracture toughness of sandstone. Int J Rock Mech Min 78:331–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hua W, Dong SM, Li YF et al (2016) Effect of cyclic wetting and drying on the pure mode II fracture toughness of sandstone. Eng Fract Mech 153(3):143–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hua W, Dong SM, Peng F et al (2017) Experimental investigation on the effect of wetting-drying cycles on mixed mode fracture toughness of sandstone. Int J Rock Mech Min 93:242–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lee JS, Yoon HK (2017) Characterization of rock weathering using elastic waves: A Laboratory-scale experimental study. J Appl Geophys 140:24–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Li YY, Zhang SC, Zhang X (2018) Classification and fractal characteristics of coal rock fragments under uniaxial cyclic loading conditions. Arab J Geosci 11(9):201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lin ML, Jeng FS, Tsai LS et al (2005) Wetting weakening of tertiary sandstones—microscopic mechanism. Environ Geol 48(2):265–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Liu RC, Li B, Jiang YJ (2016) Critical hydraulic gradient for nonlinear flow through rock fracture networks: The roles of aperture, surface roughness, and number of intersections. Adv Water Resour 88:53–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ma CQ, Li HZ, Niu Y (2018) Experimental study on damage failure mechanical characteristics and crack evolution of water-bearing surrounding rock. Environ Earth Sci 77(1):23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mouret M, Ringot E, Bascoul A (2001) Image analysis: a tool for the characterisation of hydration of cement in concrete-metrological aspects of magnification on measurement. Cement Concrete Comp 23(2–3):201–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Pudlo D, Reitenbach V, Albrecht D et al (2012) The impact of diagenetic fluid–rock reactions on Rotliegend sandstone composition and petrophysical properties (Altmark area, central Germany). Environ Earth Sci 67(2):369–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ramandi HL, Mostaghimi P, Armstrong RT et al (2016a) Porosity and permeability characterization of coal: a micro-computed tomography study. Int J Coal Geol 154–155:57–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ramandi HL, Armstrong RT, Mostaghimi P (2016b) Micro-CT image calibration to improve fracture aperture measurement. Nondestruct Test Eva 6(B):4–13Google Scholar
  20. Ramandi HL, Mostaghimi P, Armstrong RT (2017) Digital rock analysis for accurate prediction of fractured media permeability. J Hydrol 554(11):817–826CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Scrivener KL (2004) Backscattered electron imaging of cementitious microstructures: understanding and quantification. Cement Concrete Comp 26(8):935–945CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tavanaei A, Salehi S (2015) Pore, throat, and grain detection for rock SEM images using digital watershed image segmentation algorithm. J Porous Media 18(5):507–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Torres-Suarez MC, Alarcon-Guzman A, Moya RBD (2014) Effects of loading–unloading and wetting–drying cycles on geomechanical behaviors of mudrocks in the Colombian Andes. J Rock Mech Geotech Eng 6(3):257–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Vergara MR, Triantafyllidis T (2015) Swelling behavior of volcanic rocks under cyclic wetting and drying. Int J Rock Mech Min 80:231–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wang LL, Bornert M, Héripré E et al (2014) Irreversible deformation and damage in argillaceous rocks induced by wetting/drying. J Appl Geophys 107(8):108–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wang X, Wen ZJ, Jiang YJ et al (2018) Experimental study on mechanical and acoustic emission characteristics of rock-like material under non-uniformly distributed loads. Rock Mech Rock Eng 51(3):729–745CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Xu SM, Wu ZJ, Zhao WC et al (2017) Study of the microscopic Pores of Structured loess based on Matlab and IPP. China Earthq Eng J 39(01):80–87. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  28. Yan XL, Wang SH, Wu H et al (2015) Wang Seepage analysis of the fractured rock mass in the foundation of the main dam of the Xiaolangdi water control project. Environ Earth Sci 74(5):4453–4468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Yang XJ, Hou DG, Hao ZL et al (2016) Research on correlations between slope stability and rainfall of high steep slope on Nanfen open-pit iron ore. Chin J Rock Mech Eng 35(S1):3232–3240. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  30. Yao HY, Zhang ZH, Zhu CH et al (2010) Experimental study of mechanical properties of sandstone under cyclic drying and wetting. Rock Soil Mech 31(12):3704–3709. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  31. Yao HY, Zhu DY, Zhou YX et al (2013) Real-time observation and analysis of fracturing process of sandstone under cyclic drying and wetting. Rock Soil Mech 34(02):331–336. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  32. Zhang D, Chen AQ, Wang XM et al (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 246:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Zhang XL, Yang XJ, Guo HY et al (2018) Experimental study on water absorption of the support conglomerate at Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang. Chin J Rock Mech Eng 37(4):940–948. (in Chinese)</bibGoogle Scholar
  34. Zhao ZH, Yang J, Zhang DF et al (2017) Effects of wetting and cyclic wetting–drying on tensile strength of sandstone with a low clay mineral content. Rock Mech Rock Eng 50(2):485–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Zhou ZL, Cai X, Chen L et al (2017) Influence of cyclic wetting and drying on physical and dynamic compressive properties of sandstone. Eng Geol 220:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Zhu C, Tao ZG, Yang S et al (2018) V shaped gully method for controlling rockfall on high-steep slopes in China. Bull Eng Geol Environ CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory for Geomechanics and Deep Underground EngineeringChina University of Mining and TechnologyBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of Mechanics and Civil EngineeringChina University of Mining and TechnologyBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations