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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2020-85
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2020-85
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  08 Jun 2020

08 Jun 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal SE.

The physics of fault friction: Insights from experiments on simulated gouges at low shearing velocities

Berend A. Verberne1, Martijn P. A. van den Ende2, Jianye Chen3,4, André R. Niemeijer4, and Christopher J. Spiers4 Berend A. Verberne et al.
  • 1Geological Survey of Japan, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, 1-1-1 Higashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8567, Japan
  • 2Université Côte d'Azur, IRD, CNRS, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, Géoazur, France
  • 3Geoscience and Engineering Department, Delft University of Technology, Stevinweg 1, 2628 CN Delft, the Netherlands
  • 4Department of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University, Princetonlaan 4, 3584 CB Utrecht, the Netherlands

Abstract. The strength properties of fault rocks at shearing rates spanning the transition from crystal-plastic flow to frictional slip play a central role in determining the distribution of crustal stress, strain and seismicity in tectonically-active regions. We review experimental and microphysical modelling work aimed at elucidating the processes that control the transition from pervasive ductile flow of fault rock to rate-and-state dependent frictional (RSF) slip and to runaway rupture, carried out at Utrecht University in the past two or so decades. We address shear experiments on simulated gouges composed of calcite, halite-phyllosilicate mixtures, and phyllosilicate-quartz mixtures, performed under laboratory conditions spanning the brittle-ductile transition. With increasing shear rate (or decreasing temperature), the results consistently show transitions from (1) stable, velocity(v)-strengthening to potentially unstable, v-weakening behavior, and (2) back to v-strengthening. Sample microstructures show that the first transition, seen at low shear rates and/or high temperatures, represents a switch from pervasive, fully ductile deformation to frictional sliding, involving dilatant granular flow in localized shear bands, where intergranular slip is incompletely accommodated by creep of individual mineral grains. A recent microphysical model, treating fault rock deformation as controlled by a competition between rate-sensitive (diffusional or crystal-plastic) deformation of individual grains and rate-insensitive sliding interactions between grains (granular flow), predicts both transitions well. Unlike classical RSF approaches, this model quantitatively reproduces a wide range of (transient) frictional behaviors using input parameters with direct physical meaning. When implemented in numerical codes for crustal fault-slip, it offers a single, unified framework for understanding slip patch nucleation and growth to critical (seismogenic) dimensions, and for simulating the entire seismic cycle.

Berend A. Verberne et al.

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Berend A. Verberne et al.

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Short summary
The strength of fault rock plays a central role in determining the distribution of crustal seismicity. We review laboratory work on the physics of fault friction at low shearing velocities, carried out at Utrecht University in the past two decades. Key mechanical data and post-mortem microstructures can be explained using a generalized, physically-based model for shear of gouge-filled faults. When implemented into numerical fault slip codes, this offers new ways for simulating the seismic cycle.
The strength of fault rock plays a central role in determining the distribution of crustal...
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