Detecting the transition to failure: wavelet analysis of multi-scale crack patterns at different confining pressures

R. E. Rizzo, David Healy, Nathalie J.C. Farrell

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Numerous laboratory brittle deformation experiments have shown that a rapid transition exists in the behaviour of porous materials under stress: at a certain point, early formed tensile cracks interact and coalesce into a `single' narrow zone, the shear plane, rather than remaining distributed throughout the material. In this work, we present and apply a novel image processing tool which is able to quantify this transition between distributed (`stable') damage accumulation and localised (`unstable') deformation, in terms of size, density, and orientation of cracks at the point of failure. Our technique, based on a two-dimensional (2D) continuous Morlet wavelet analysis, can recognise, extract and visually separate the multi-scale changes occurring in the fracture network during the deformation process. We have analysed high-resolution SEM-BSE images of thin sections of Hopeman Sandstone (Scotland, UK) taken from core plugs deformed under triaxial conditions, with increasing confining pressure. Through this analysis, we can determine the relationship between the initial orientation of tensile microcracks and the final geometry of the through-going shear fault, exploiting the total areal coverage of the analysed image. In addition, by comparing patterns of fractures in thin sections derived from triaxial (σ1>σ2=σ3=Pc) laboratory experiments conducted at different confining pressures (Pc), we can quantitatively explore the relationship between the observed geometry and the inferred mechanical processes. The methodology presented here can have important implications for larger-scale mechanical problems related to major fault propagation. Just as a core plug scale fault localises through extension and coalescence of microcracks, larger faults also grow by extension and coalescence of segments in a multi-scale process by which microscopic cracks can ultimately lead to macroscopic faulting. Consequently, wavelet analysis represents a useful tool for fracture pattern recognition, applicable to the detection of the transitions occurring at the time of catastrophic rupture.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
EventAGU Fall Meeting 2017 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: 11 Dec 2017 → …


ConferenceAGU Fall Meeting 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans
Period11/12/17 → …


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