Effects of normal stress perturbations on the frictional properties of simulated faults

Tiancong Hong, Chris Marone

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64 Scopus citations


We report on laboratory experiments to investigate the fictional response of creeping faults to sudden changes in normal stress. Experiments were conducted on layers of quartz powder, bare surfaces of Westerly granite, and layers of a 50/50 mixture of quartz powder and smectite clay powder. The tests were carried out at room temperature and controlled humidity using a servo-controlled double-direct shear configuration. Normal stress perturbations, corresponding to loading and unloading oftectonic fault zones, were applied during steady sliding at constant loading rate from 3 to 1000 |mm/s (shear strain rates of 1.5 × 10∼3 to 0.5 s-1). Sudden changes in normal stress resulted in a linear elastic response of shear stress followed by a transient evolution of friction over a characteristic displacement. The transient, inelastic response is quantified as α = (δτασ)/ln(σ/σ0), where δτα is the transient change in shear stress following a step change from initial normal stress σ0 to final normal stress σ. We find that α is independent of sliding velocity and varies with ambient relative humidity and shear loading history. For unloading, we document a transition from stable to unstable behavior as a function of net slip in the range 3 to 30 mm (shear strains of 1.5 to 15). Increased humidity led to higher values of α for pure quartz gouge, but smaller α for the quartz-clay gouge. The effects ofshear displacement and humidity are discussed in the context ofparticle characteristics and gouge fabric development. The extended rate- and state-dependent friction laws, using one state variable and the Ruina evolution law with normal stress variation, describe our observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberQ03012
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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