Amorphization and Frictional Processes in Smectite-Quartz Gouge Mixtures Sheared from Sub-seismic to Seismic Slip Rates

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Stefano Aretusini1, Silvia Mittempergher2, Elena Spagnuolo3, Giulio Di Toro4 and Alessandro Gualtieri2, (1)University of Padova, Padova, Italy, (2)University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy, (3)National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, Roma 1, Rome, Italy, (4)University of Padua, Padua, Italy
Slipping zones in shallow sections of megathrusts and large landslides are often made of smectite and quartz gouge mixtures. Experiments aimed at investigating the frictional processes operating at high slip rates (>1 m/s) may unravel the mechanics of these natural phenomena. Here we present a new dataset obtained with two rotary shear apparatus (ROSA, Padua University; SHIVA, INGV-Rome). Experiments were performed at room humidity and temperature on four mixtures of smectite (Ca-Montmorillonite) and quartz with 68, 50, 25, 0 wt% of smectite. The gouges were slid for 3 m at normal stress of 5 MPa and slip rate V from 300 µm/s to 1.5 m/s. Temperature during the experiments was monitored with four thermocouples and modeled with COMSOL Multiphysics. In smectite-rich mixtures, the friction coefficient µ evolved with slip according to three slip rate regimes: in regime 1 (V<0.1 m/s) initial slip-weakening was followed by slip-strengthening; in regime 2 (0.1<V≤0.3 m/s) µ was slip-independent; in regime (V>0.3 m/s) µ had strong slip-weakening behavior. Instead, in quartz-rich mixtures the gouge had a monotonic slip-weakening behavior, independently of V. Temperature modelling showed that the fraction of work rate converted into heat decreased with increasing smectite content and slip rate. Quantitative X-ray powder diffraction (Rietveld method) indicates that the production of amorphous material from smectite breakdown increased with frictional work but was independent of work rate. Scanning Electron Microscopy investigation evidenced strain localization and presence of dehydrated clays for V≥0.3 m/s; instead, for V<0.3 m/s, strain was distributed and the gouge layer pervasively foliated. In conclusion, amorphization of the sheared gouges was not responsible of the measured frictional weakening. Instead, slip-weakening was concomitant to strain localization and possible vaporization of water adsorbed on smectite grain surfaces.