Frictional and hydrologic properties of clay-rich fault gouge

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[1] The slip behavior of major faults depends largely on the frictional and hydrologic properties of fault gouge. We report on laboratory experiments designed to measure the strength, friction constitutive properties, and permeability of a suite of saturated clay-rich fault gouges, including: a 50:50% mixture of montmorillonite-quartz, powdered illite shale, and powdered chlorite schist. Friction measurements indicate that clay-rich gouges are consistently weak, with steady state coefficient of sliding friction of <0.35. The montmorillonite gouge (μ = 0.19-0.23) is consistently weaker than the illite and chlorite gouges (μ = 0.27-0.32). At effective normal stresses from 12 to 59 MPa, all gouges show velocity-strengthening frictional behavior in the sliding velocity range 0.5-300 μm/s. We suggest that the velocity- strengthening behavior we observe is related to saturation of real contact area, as documented by the friction parameter b, and is an inherent characteristic of noncohesive, unlithified clay-rich gouge. Permeability normal to the gouge layer measured before, during, and after shear ranges from 8.3 × 10 -21 m2 to 3.6 × 10-16 m2; permeability decreases dramatically with shearing, and to a lesser extent with increasing effective normal stress. The chlorite gouge is consistently more permeable than the montmorillonite and illite gouge and maintains a higher permeability after shearing. Permeability reduction via shear is pronounced at shear strains ≲5 and is smaller at higher strain, suggesting that shear-induced permeability reduction is linked to fabric development early in the deformation history. Our results imply that the potential for development of excess pore pressure in low-permeability fault gouge depends on both clay mineralogy and shear strain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)B05409
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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