Brittle to ductile transition in a model of sheared granular materials

Xiao Ma, & Ahmed E. Elbanna

Submitted August 4, 2016, SCEC Contribution #6497, 2016 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #042

Understanding the fundamental mechanisms of deformation and failure in sheared fault gouge is critical for the development of physics-based earthquake rupture simulations that are becoming an essential ingredient in next generation hazard and risk models. To that end, we use the shear transformation zone (STZ) theory, a non-equilibrium statistical thermodynamics framework to describe viscoplastic deformation and localization in gouge materials as a first step towards developing multiscale models for earthquake source processes that are informed by high-resolution fault zone physics.

The primary ingredient of the STZ theory is that inelastic deformation occurs at rare and local non-interacting soft zones known as the shear transformation zones. The larger the number of these STZs the more disordered (the more loose) the layer is. We will describe an implementation of this theory in a 2D/3D finite element framework, accounting for finite deformation, under both axial and shear loading and for dry and saturated conditions. We examine conditions under which a localized shear band may form and show that the initial value of disorder (or the initial porosity) plays an important role. In particular, our simulations suggest that if the material is more compact initially, the behavior is more brittle and the plastic deformation localizes with generating large strength drop. On the other hand, an initially loose material will show a more ductile response and the plastic deformations will be distributed more broadly. We will further show that incorporation of pore fluids alters the localization pattern and changes the stress slip response due to coupling between gouge volume changes (compaction and dilation) and pore pressure build up. We validate the model predictions by comparing them to available experimental observations on strain localization and fault gouge strength evolution. Finally, we discuss the implications of our model for gouge friction and dynamic weakening.

Ma, X., & Elbanna, A. E. (2016, 08). Brittle to ductile transition in a model of sheared granular materials . Poster Presentation at 2016 SCEC Annual Meeting.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Fault and Rupture Mechanics (FARM)