Rate-dependence of the compressive and tensile strength of granites

Kendrick, Jackie E. and Lamur, Anthony and Mouli-Castillo, Julien and Fraser-Harris, Andrew P. and Lightbody, Alexander and Edlmann, Katriona and McDermott, Christopher and Shipton, Zoe (2023) Rate-dependence of the compressive and tensile strength of granites. Advances in Geosciences, 62. pp. 11-19. ISSN 1680-7359 (https://doi.org/10.5194/adgeo-62-11-2023)

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The strength and rupture of geomaterials are integral to subsurface engineering practices, such as those required to optimise geothermal energy extraction. Of particular importance is the time- and strain-rate-dependence of material strength, which dictates the energy released upon failure, and impacts the magnitude of induced seismicity, fracture architecture and thus hydraulic conductivity and system permeability. Here, we performed a series of uniaxial compression and Brazilian tensile strength measurements at a range of deformation rates in order to constrain the impact of strain rate on the strength of G603 granite. The dense, low permeability, medium-grained granites were mechanically tested at 4 strain rates (or diametric equivalent strain rates in the case of Brazilian tests) from 10−5 to 10−2 s−1, such that sample failure was achieved in anything from below 1s at the fastest rate in tension, to over 1000s at the slowest rate in compression. The applied rates encompassed those recommended by ISRM and ASTM material testing standards for compressive and Brazilian tensile testing. We found a significant rate strengthening effect, whereby compressive and tensile strength both increased by approximately 35 % across the 4 orders of magnitude of strain rate tested. We found that the static Young's modulus remained relatively constant across this range of deformation rates, however variability was reduced at faster rates, owing to the reduced time for equilibration of the system to imposed stresses. The lower strength at slower strain rates causes smaller stress drops, indicating that rocks driven to compressive and tensile failure at slower rates release less energy upon failure. Such constraints of the strain-rate-dependence of material strength, in contrast to the use of standardised material characteristics conventionally used in Engineering Geology applications, will prove useful as we develop increasingly sophisticated strategies such as cyclic soft stimulation to access resources using less energy, whilst reducing environmental risk and producing less waste.