Dragon-Kings in rock fracturing: Insights gained from rock fracture tests in the laboratory
Geological survey of Japan, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, AIST Central #7, Higashi 1-1-1, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8567, Japan
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Revised: 9 March 2012
Published online: 1 May 2012
In order to shed some lights to the “dragon-kings” concept, this paper re-examines experimental results on rock fracture tests in the laboratory, obtained from acoustic emission monitoring. The fracture of intact rocks as well as rocks containing natural structures (joints, faults, foliations) under constant stress rate loading or creep conditions is generally characterized by typical stages with different underlying physics. The primary phase reflects the initial rupture of pre-existing microcrack population in the sample or in the fault zone. Sub-critical growth dominates the secondary phase. The third phases termed nucleation phase corresponds to the initiation and accelerated growth of the ultimate fracture. The secondary and nucleation phases in both intact rock and faulted rock show power-law (of time-to-failure) increasing event rate and moment release. Samples containing planar structures such as foliations and faults demonstrate very similar features to natural earthquakes including: 1) small number of immediate foreshocks by which fault nucleation zones could be mapped; 2) the critical nucleation zone size is normally a fraction of the sample dimension; 3) a lot of aftershocks concentrated on the fault ruptured during the main event; 4) stress drop due to the main rupture is of the order from a few tens to a few hundreds MPa; 5) b-value drops during foreshocks and recovers during the aftershocks. All these results agree with the suggestion that laboratory measurements require no scaling but can be applied directly to the Earth to represent local fault behavior. The ultimate failure of the sample, or fracture of major asperities on the fault surface, normally lead to extreme events, i.e., dragon-kings, which has a magnitude significantly greater than that expected by the Gutenberg-Richter power-law relation in the magnitude-frequency distribution for either foreshocks or aftershocks. There are at least two mechanisms that may lead to dragon-kings: 1) The power-law increasing event rate and moment release; and 2) Hierarchical fracturing behavior resulting from hierarchical inhomogeneities in the sample. In the 1st mechanism, the final failure corresponds to the end point of the progressive occurrence of events and thus the resulted dragon-king event can be interpreted as a superposition of many small events. While for the 2nd mechanism an event of extreme size is the result of fracture growth stepping from a lower hierarchy into a higher hierarchy on fault surface having asperities characterized by hierarchical distribution (of size or strength) rather than simple fractal distribution. In both mechanisms the underlying physics is that fracture in rocks is hard to stop beyond certain threshold corresponding to the critical nucleation zone size.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2012