The influence of grain size and porosity on crack initiation stress and critical flaw length in dolomites

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The influence of rock texture on crack initiation stress (σi) and critical flaw length (Li) is studied by a series of triaxial tests performed on monomineralic dolomites. The critical flaw length, as predicted by analytical models, is shown to be larger than the measured mean grain size (dm) by two-three orders of magnitude. This discrepancy is explained by rock texture variations, which influence the fracture propagation mode and consequently fracture initiation stress. The quantification of rock texture is accomplished using porosity. Fracture initiation stress is shown to be inversely related to both porosity and mean grain size. When porosity is low, the sensitivity σi, to mean grain size is high. This effect is reduced with higher porosity values. A model for initial flaw length is developed by a synthesis of Griffith initiation criteria with our empirical model for fracture initiation stress. Initial flaw length is found to be directly proportional to the elastic modulus, mean grain size and porosity of the rock. When porosity and mean grain size decrease simultaneously, the initial flaw length rapidly decreases and approaches the mean grain size value. Therefore, the classical assumption that grain size scales initial flaw size is shown to be valid only in the very restricted case of low porosity-low grain size rocks. In such textures, where void space is minimal, available crystal faces function as truly initial flaws, and variations in mean grain size influence crack initiation stress significantly. In more porous textures, however, the initial flaw length is shown to be up to two orders of magnitude higher than the mean grain size in the rock, depending upon the porosity and mean grain size values. In such textures crack initiation stress is much less sensitive to variations in mean grain size, indicating that the role of individual grains is less significant.

Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)805-816
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Rock Mechanics and Minings Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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