The role of fabric in frictional properties of phyllosilicate-rich tectonic faults

Cristiano Collettini, Telemaco Tesei, Fabio Trippetta, Marco M. Scuderi, Eliza Richardson, Chris Marone, Giacomo Pozzi, Cecilia Viti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Many rock deformation experiments used to characterize the frictional properties of tectonic faults are performed on powdered fault rocks or on bare rock surfaces. These experiments have been fundamental to document the frictional properties of granular mineral phases and provide evidence for crustal faults characterized by high friction. However, they cannot entirely capture the frictional properties of faults rich in phyllosilicates. Numerous studies of natural faults have documented fluid-assisted reaction softening promoting the replacement of strong minerals with phyllosilicates that are distributed into continuous foliations. To study how these foliated fabrics influence the frictional properties of faults we have: 1) collected foliated phyllosilicate-rich rocks from natural faults; 2) cut the fault rock samples to obtain solid wafers 0.8-1.2 cm thick and 5 cm x 5 cm in area with the foliation parallel to the 5x5cm face of the wafer; 3) performed friction tests on both solid wafers sheared in their in situ geometry and powders, obtained by crushing and sieving and therefore disrupting the foliation of the same samples; 4) recovered the samples for microstructural studies from the post experiment rock samples; and 5) performed microstructural analyses via optical microscopy, scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Mechanical data show that the solid samples with well-developed foliation show significantly lower friction in comparison to their powdered equivalents. Micro-and nano-structural studies demonstrate that low friction results from sliding along the foliation surfaces composed of phyllosilicates. When the same rocks are powdered, frictional strength is high, because sliding is accommodated by fracturing, grain rotation, translation and associated dilation. Friction tests indicate that foliated fault rocks may have low friction even when phyllosilicates constitute only a small percentage of the total rock volume, implying that a significant number of crustal faults are weak.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere62821
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number177
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of fabric in frictional properties of phyllosilicate-rich tectonic faults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this