Temperature dependence of frictional healing of Westerly granite: Experimental observations and numerical simulations

Mitchell, EK, Fialko Y, Brown KM.  2013.  Temperature dependence of frictional healing of Westerly granite: Experimental observations and numerical simulations. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. 14:567-582.

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asperity, contact, creep, creep law, deformation, fault-gouge, friction, granite, hydrothermal conditions, laws, rate and state, rheology, rock friction, slip, surfaces, temperature, Westerly


Temperature is believed to have an important control on frictional properties of rocks, yet the amount of experimental observations of time-dependent rock friction at high temperatures is rather limited. In this study, we investigated frictional healing of Westerly granite in a series of slide-hold-slide experiments using a direct shear apparatus at ambient temperatures between 20 degrees C and 550 degrees C. We observed that at room temperature coefficient of friction increases in proportion to the logarithm of hold time at a rate consistent with findings of previous studies. For a given hold time, the coefficient of friction linearly increases with temperature, but temperature has little effect on the rate of change in static friction with hold time. We used a numerical model to investigate whether time-dependent increases in real contact area between rough surfaces could account for the observed frictional healing. The model incorporates fractal geometry and temperature-dependent viscoelasoplastic rheology. We explored several candidate rheologies that have been proposed for steady state creep of rocks at high stresses and temperatures. None of the tested laws could provide an agreement between the observed and modeled healing behavior given material properties reported in the bulk creep experiments. An acceptable fit to the experimental data could be achieved with modified parameters. In particular, for the power-law rheology to provide a reasonable fit to the data, the stress exponent needs to be greater than 40. Alternative mechanisms include time-dependent gouge compaction and increases in bond strength between contacting asperities.