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posted on 06.04.2021, 15:09 by Danielli De melo moura
Different rock formations may appear within the same mass, or even within the same formation there may exist layers of different materials, creating interfaces between layers (an interface may be defined, in more general terms, as a frictional contact that separates two similar or dissimilar materials). Currently, there is no well-established experimental work that investigates the influence of frictional interfaces, interface orientation and flaw geometries on crack behavior (i.e. initiation, propagation and coalescence) in brittle specimens under compressive loading. A series of experiments on homogeneous gypsum specimens, used as a rock-model material, containing two pre-existing open flaws and a frictional interface has been performed under uniaxial compression. The experiments investigate how cracks interact with interfaces and how different variables (i.e. flaw geometry, interface inclination angle and interface roughness) affect crack behavior in homogeneous materials separated by an interface. The specimens are 203.2mm high, 101.6mm wide, and 25.4mm thick. The two flaws, with 0.1mm aperture and 12.7mm length (2a), are created through the thickness of the specimen. The spacing (S) between flaws, continuity (C), and inclination angle, measured from the horizontal, (β) define the geometry of the flaws. Three flaw geometries are tested: S=0, C= -2a= -12.7mm, β= 30° (i.e. a left-stepping geometry); S= 2a= 12.7 mm, C=a=6.35 mm, β= 30° (i.e. an overlapping geometry) and S= 3a= 19.05mm, C=0, β= 30° (i.e. a right-stepping geometry). Smooth and rough unbonded interfaces are created by casting the specimen in two parts. The first half of the specimen is cast against a PVC block with an inclined face (i.e. 90°, 80° or 70°) with respect to the vertical axis of the specimen. The second half is then cast against the first one. Sandpaper may be attached to the PVC block to provide different roughness to the interface; a debonding agent applied to the interface ensures a cohesionless contact. In the experiments, digital image correlation (DIC) is used to monitor crack propagation on the specimen surface. The experiments indicate that the interface itself is an important contributor to new cracks and its presence in the specimens reduce crack initiation stress. Furthermore, the increase in roughness and inclination of the interface (i.e. from horizontal to 70° from the vertical) causes crack initiation stress to decrease. It was also observed that the angle between the incident crack plane and the interface affects whether an incident crack will penetrate an interface or be arrested: Tensile cracks that meet the interface at 30° to 60° angle get arrested, while those at or above 70° cross the interface with an offset of 0 – 1.2 mm. While shear cracks that meet the interface at 20° to 63° angles get arrested at the interface, while those at or above 70° cross the interface with an offset in the range of 0 – 1.76 mm. Another relevant finding is the fact that changes in interface roughness or inclination angle did not affect the angles at which cracks initiate or reinitiate at the interface.
A numerical study was conducted using the Extended Finite Element Method (XFEM) capability in ABAQUS, to further investigate the fracture behavior observed in the experiments and, more specifically, the influence of the different types of interfaces. An extensive investigation of the stress fields around the tips of the flaws and of the new cracks, as well as along the interface in the specimens, was conducted to determine the relationship between stresses and crack initiation and propagation (i.e. type and direction of cracks). The stress-based approach yields predictions of tensile and shear cracks location and initiation direction that are in good agreement with experimental results. The numerical investigation indicated that rougher horizontal interfaces induced slightly higher tensile stresses around the interior and exterior flaw tips than smoother interfaces, which may explain why tensile cracks at these locations initiated earlier in specimens with a rough interface. Moreover, inclined interfaces induced higher tensile stresses around the interior and exterior flaw tips than horizontal interfaces, which may justify that, in the experiments, inclined interfaces promoted crack initiation earlier than horizontal interfaces.


Science without borders Fellowship

Industrial Roundtable Scholarship


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Civil Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Antonio Bobet

Additional Committee Member 2

Philippe Bourdeau

Additional Committee Member 3

Laura Pyrak-Nolte

Additional Committee Member 4

Jie Shan

Additional Committee Member 5

Sergio Fontoura