Ensemble Shear Strength, Stability, and Permeability of Mixed Mineralogy Fault Gouge Recovered From 3D Granular Models

Chaoyi Wang, Derek Elsworth, Yi Fang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We conduct numerical shear experiments on mixtures of quartz and talc gouge using a three-dimensional (3D) distinct element model. A modified slip-weakening constitutive law is applied at contacts. We perform velocity-stepping experiments on both uniform and layered mixtures of quartz and talc analogs. We separately vary the proportion of talc in the uniform mixtures and talc layer thickness in the layered mixtures. Shear displacements are cycled through velocities of 1 and 10 μm/s. We follow the resulting evolution of ensemble shear strength, slip stability, and permeability of the gouge mixture and explore the mesoscopic mechanisms. Simulation results show that talc has a strong weakening effect on shear strength—a thin shear-parallel layer of talc (three particles wide) can induce significant weakening. However, the model offsets laboratory-derived strong weakening effects of talc observed in uniform mixtures, implying the governing mechanisms may be the shear localization effect of talc, which is enhanced by its natural platy shape or preimposed layered structure. Ensemble stability (a − b) can be enhanced by increasing talc content in uniform talc-quartz mixtures. Reactivation-induced permeability increase is amplified with increased quartz content before the maturation of shear localization. Postmaturation permeability enhances on velocity upsteps and diminishes on velocity downsteps. Talc enhances compaction at velocity downsteps, potentially reducing fault permeability. Evolution trends of stability relating to the composition and structure of the fault gouge are straightforwardly obtained from the 3D simulation. Local friction evolution indicates that talc preferentially organizes and localizes in the shear zone, dominating the shear strength and frictional stability of faults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-441
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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