Frictional behaviour of sandstone: A sample-size dependent triaxial investigation

Hamid Roshan, Hossein Masoumi, Klaus Regenauer-Lieb

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33 Citations (Scopus)


Frictional behaviour of rocks from the initial stage of loading to final shear displacement along the formed shear plane has been widely investigated in the past. However the effect of sample size on such frictional behaviour has not attracted much attention. This is mainly related to the limitations in rock testing facilities as well as the complex mechanisms involved in sample-size dependent frictional behaviour of rocks. In this study, a suite of advanced triaxial experiments was performed on Gosford sandstone samples at different sizes and confining pressures. The post-peak response of the rock along the formed shear plane has been captured for the analysis with particular interest in sample-size dependency. Several important phenomena have been observed from the results of this study: a) the rate of transition from brittleness to ductility in rock is sample-size dependent where the relatively smaller samples showed faster transition toward ductility at any confining pressure; b) the sample size influences the angle of formed shear band and c) the friction coefficient of the formed shear plane is sample-size dependent where the relatively smaller sample exhibits lower friction coefficient compared to larger samples. We interpret our results in terms of a thermodynamics approach in which the frictional properties for finite deformation are viewed as encompassing a multitude of ephemeral slipping surfaces prior to the formation of the through going fracture. The final fracture itself is seen as a result of the self-organisation of a sufficiently large ensemble of micro-slip surfaces and therefore consistent in terms of the theory of thermodynamics. This assumption vindicates the use of classical rock mechanics experiments to constrain failure of pressure sensitive rocks and the future imaging of these micro-slips opens an exciting path for research in rock failure mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-165
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Brittleness
  • Ductility
  • Friction coefficient
  • Size effect
  • Thermodynamics

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