The mixology of precursory strain partitioning approaching brittle failure in rocks

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Jessica McBeck , Yehuda Ben-Zion, Francois Renard


We examine the strain accumulation and localization process throughout twelve triaxial compression experiments on six rock types deformed in an X-ray transparent apparatus. In each experiment, we acquire 50-100 tomograms of rock samples at differential stress steps during loading, revealing the evolving 3D distribution of X-ray absorption contrasts, indicative of density. Using digital volume correlation (DVC) of pairs of tomograms, we build time series of 3D incremental strain tensor fields as the rocks are deformed toward failure. The Pearson correlation coefficients between components of the local incremental strain tensor at each stress step indicate that the correlation strength between pairs of local strain components, including dilation, contraction and shear strain, are moderate-strong in eleven of twelve experiments. In addition, changes in the local strain components from one DVC calculation to the next show differences in the correlations between pairs of strain components. In particular, the correlation of the local changes in dilation and shear strain tends to be stronger than the correlation of changes in dilation-contraction and contraction-shear strain. In eleven of twelve experiments, the most volumetrically frequent mode of strain accommodation includes a synchronized increase in multiple strain components. Early in loading, under lower differential stress, the most frequent strain accumulation mode involves the paired increase in dilation and contraction at neighboring locations. Under higher differential stress, the most frequent mode is the paired increase in dilation and shear strain. This mode is also the first or second most frequent throughout each complete experiment. Tracking the mean values of the strain components in the sample and the volume of rock that each component occupies reveals fundamental differences in the nature of strain accumulation and localization between the volumetric and shear strain modes. As the dilative strain increases in magnitude throughout loading, it tends to occupy larger volumes within the rock sample and thus delocalizes. In contrast, the increasing shear strain components (left- or right-lateral) do not necessarily occupy larger volume and so involve localization. Consistent with these evolutions, the correlation length of the dilatational strains tends to increase by the largest amounts of the strain components from lower to higher differential stress. In contrast, the correlation length of the shear strains does not consistently increase or decrease with increasing differential stress.



Earth Sciences, Geology, Geophysics and Seismology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Tectonics and Structure


strain localization, digital volume correlation, faults, fractures, X-ray tomography


Published: 2020-01-08 13:03

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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