High strain rate behavior of saturated and non-saturated sandstone: implications for earthquake mechanisms.
Abstract:Damage zones of active faults control their resistance to rupture and transport properties. Hence, knowing the damage’s origin is crucial to shed light on the (paleo)seismic behavior of the fault. Coseismic damage in the damage zone occurs by stress-wave loading of a passing earthquake rupture tip, resulting in dynamic (high strain rate) loading and subsequent dynamic fracturing or pulverization. Recently, interest in this type of damage has increased and several experimental studies were performed on dry rock specimens to search for pulverization-controlling parameters. However, the influence of fluids in during dynamic loading needs to be constrained.
Hence, we have performed compressional dynamic loading experiments on water saturated and oven dried Vosges sandstone samples using a Split Hopkinson Pressure Bar apparatus. Due to the high porosity in these rocks, close to 20%, the effect of fluids should be clear. Afterwards, microstructural analyses have been applied on thin sections.
Water saturated samples reveal dynamic mechanical behavior that follows linear poro-elasticity for undrained conditions: the peak strength of the sample decreases by 30-50% and the accumulated strain increases relative to the dry samples that were tested under similar conditions. The mechanical behavior of partially saturated samples falls in between.
Microstructural studies on thin section show that fractures are restricted to some quartz grains while other quartz grains remain intact, similar to co-seismically damaged sandstones observed in the field. Most deformation is accommodated by inter-granular processes, thereby appointing an important role to the cement matrix in between grains. Intra-granular fracture damage is highest for the saturated samples.
The presence of pore fluids in the rocks lower the dynamic peak strength, especially since fast dynamic loading does not allow for time-dependent fluid dissipation. Thus, fluid-saturated rocks would show undrained mechanical behavior, creating local overpressure in the pore that breaks the inter-granular cement. This strength-decreasing effect provides an explanation for the presence of pulverized and coseismically damaged rocks at depth and extends the range of dynamic stress where dynamic damage can occur in fault zones.