Fault structure, damage and acoustic emission characteristics

Georg Dresen, Thomas Goebel, Sergei Stanchits, Grzegorz Kwiatek, Elli-Maria Christodoulos Charalampidou

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


We investigate the evolution of faulting-related damage and acoustic emission activity in experiments performed on granite, quartzite and sandstone samples with 40-50 mm diameter and 100-125 mm length. Experiments were performed in a servo-controlled MTS loading frame in triaxial compression at confining pressures ranging from 20-140 MPa. We performed a series of fracture and stick-slip sliding experiments on prefractured samples. Acoustic emissions (AE) and ultrasonic velocities were monitored using up to 14 P-wave sensors glued to the cylindrical surface of the rock. Full waveforms were stored in a 16 channel transient recording system (Daxbox, PRÖKEL, Germany). Full moment tensor analysis and polarity of AE first motions were used to discriminate source types associated with tensile, shear and pore-collapse cracking. To monitor strain, two pairs of orthogonally oriented strain-gages were glued onto the specimen surface. Fracture nucleation and growth occurred from a nucleation patch mostly located at the specimen surface or at the tip of prefabricated notches inside the specimens. Irrespective of the rock type, fracture propagation is associated with formation of a damage zone surrounding the fracture surface as revealed by distribution of cracks and AE hypocenters displaying a logarithmic decay in microcrack damage with distance normal to the fault trace. The width of the damage zone varies along the fault. After fracturing, faults were locked by increasing confining pressure. Subsequent sliding was mostly induced by driving the piston at a constant displacement rate producing large single events or multiple stick-slips. With increasing sliding distance a corrugated and rough fault surface formed displaying displacement-parallel lineations. Microstructural analysis of fault surfaces and cross-sections revealed formation of multiple secondary shears progressively merging into an anastomosing 3D-network controlling damage evolution and AE activity in the fault zone. Robust topographic highs (asperities) are associated with AE hypocenter clusters during multiple stick-slip cycles. Major slip events associated with pronounced stress drops are spatially correlated with AE clusters possibly reflecting shearing of larger asperities along combined R- and P-type shears.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2011
EventAmerican Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2011 - San Francisco, California, United States
Duration: 5 Dec 20119 Dec 2011


ConferenceAmerican Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco, California
Internet address


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