A damage model for the frictional shear failure of brittle materials in compression

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Simon Philip Gill 


Damage models have been successfully employed for many decades in the modelling of tensile failure, where the crack surfaces separate as a crack grows. The advantage of this approach is that crack trajectories can be computed simply and efficiently on a fixed finite element mesh without explicit tracking. The development of damage models for shear failure in compression, where the crack faces slide over each other subject to friction, is a non-trivial extension of this approach. A major difference is that part of the material stiffness in the damaged region must be retained to avoid interpenetration of the crack faces. This problem is resolved here by employing an anisotropic modification to the elastic stiffness tensor in the damaged region. This has the benefit of driving frictional cracks into the correct orientation, according to the Mohr-Coulomb failure criteria, but three issues remain. The first is that the shear discontinuity introduces some spurious stress perturbations around crack regions that are narrow (less than 3-4 elements wide). This is ameliorated by Helmholtz smoothing to allow efficient simulation on a coarse mesh. The second is that the complementarity of shear stress means that the shear stiffness is removed normal to the crack interface as well as parallel to it, and the third is that there are two potentially active failure planes at each point. Both these latter two issues are resolved by the introduction of a novel failure plane selection variable, which regulates either single plane or dual plane failure, and prevents the growth of erroneous cracks normal to the crack face. Both local and non-local models are investigated for linear and exponential strain softening responses. Unlike the non-local model, the local model demonstrates some mesh-size dependence, but it still retains some properties of interest, in that it supports narrower cracks and more rapidly forms a preference for the growth of a single crack when there are a number of competing cracks. The model is implemented in commercial finite element package COMSOL Multiphysics v5.5 and validated against two benchmark simulations: biaxial compression and the failure of a 45o slope. The correct crack angles, stipulated by the Mohr-Coulomb friction angle, are correctly reproduced, as is the post-failure residual frictional force in biaxial compression. The effect of the shear fracture energy on the force-displacement response is investigated, demonstrating the successful simulation of the range of material behaviour expected in geological samples, from broad ranged gradual collapse to sharp, almost instantaneous failure.




Applied Mathematics, Computational Engineering, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Geology, Materials Science and Engineering, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


friction, damage modelling, Mohr-Coulomb, rock failure, compressive shear


Published: 2021-05-13 11:05

Last Updated: 2021-05-13 18:05


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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