On the Effect of Grain Fragmentation on Frictional Instabilities in Faults With Granular Gouge
- Journal Article
The evolution of frictional strength during stick-slip dynamics of a fault system is key to understanding earthquake nucleation and rupture patterns. In mature faults, granular gouge is produced by wear, comminution or fragmentation during tectonic movements. In this work, we introduce a fragmentation model in the simulation of a sheared granular fault to explore the influence of grain breakage on the stick-slip dynamics. With fragmentation of highly stressed particles, the fault frictional strength increases accompanied by many small slip events triggered by particle breakage. The small fragments produced by particle breakage are not only stronger and more difficult to break, but they also change the distribution of contact forces, leading to the strengthening of the fault system. Based on statistical analyses on the size distribution of slip events with different particle strengths, we find that with lower particle strength, slip events become more correlated with particle fragmentation events and that the number of large slip events decreases. In addition, our analyses on the relationship between slip and particle fragmentation events reveal three types of correlations: In the first and second types, particle fragmentation events trigger micro or major slips, respectively. In the third category, large-scale particle fragmentations take place at the end of large slip events owing to stress localization during post-slip particle rearrangements. Our results in this work highlight the role of micromechanics of particle fragmentation in the failure of fault damage zones and help in understanding the relation between particle breakage and frictional failures. Show more
Journal / seriesJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Pages / Article No.
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
SubjectComminution; fault gouge; friction; particle fragmentation; stick-slip dynamics
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