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International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924

Analysis of crack coalescence in rock-like materials containing


three flawsFPart I: experimental approach
R.H.C. Wonga,*, K.T. Chaua, C.A. Tangb, P. Linb
a
Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong, China
b
Centre for Rock Instability and Seismicity Research, Northeastern University, Shenyang, China
Accepted 6 September 2001

Abstract

Fractures in the forms of joints and microcracks are commonly found in natural rocks, and their failure mechanism strongly
depends on the crack coalescence pattern between pre-existing flaws. However, the crack coalescence pattern of rock specimens
containing three or more flaws has not been studied comprehensively. In this paper, we investigate experimentally crack coalescence
and peak strength of rock-like materials containing three parallel frictional flaws. Three flaws are arranged such that one pair of
flaws lines collinearly and the third flaw forms either a non-overlapping pattern or an overlapping pattern with the first flaw. It is
found that the mechanisms of crack coalescence depend on the flaw arrangement and the frictional coefficient m on the flaw surface.
Two ‘‘rules of failure’’ for the specimens containing three flaws are proposed. Rule No. 1: the pair of flaws with a lower value of
coalescence stress will dominate the process of coalescence. Rule No. 2: mixed and tensile modes of coalescence are always the dominant
modes if the coalescence stress of the two pairs of flaws is very close (say within 5%). In addition, it is found that the peak strength of
the specimens does not depend on the initial crack density but on the actual number of pre-existing flaws involved in the coalescence.
Comparisons of pattern of crack coalescence with the numerical approach are given in Part II of this study, and the two results agree
well. The research reported here provides increased understanding of the fundamental nature of rock failure in uniaxial
compression. r 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction initiates from the tip of pre-existing fracture and grows


progressively parallel to the compression direction. At
When a brittle rock is loaded to failure, cracks the early stages, when the wing crack is short, the
nucleate and propagate from pre-existing inhomogene- growth is dominated by the stress field around the pre-
ities, which can be in the form of pores, fractures, existing fracture from which it grows. As the crack
inclusions or other defects. Crack initiation and extends, it start to interact with neighbouring micro-
propagation in solids have been studied since the early cracks, and this interaction ultimately leads to crack
twenties [1,2]. Particular reference to fractures in rocks, coalescence and final failure of the sample [16].
systematic, theoretical and experimental investigations Fracture propagation leading to rock failure is a very
of crack initiation, propagation and interaction began at important topic in rock mechanics research. A number
about the middle of the last century and have continued of studies have been done on two-dimensional (2-D)
since [3–18]. It is recognized that under the compressive model plates with through going pre-existing fractures
loading, both tensile and shear stress concentrations can [3–29] and some of them have been done on 3-D
develop at pre-existing inhomogeneities in rock. As the specimens [30–33]. In reality, pre-existing fractures are
compression applied to the rock further increases, 3-D in nature. The growth mechanisms of a 3-D crack
tensile cracks will be initiated. In the shear sliding crack may be more complicated. Actually, according to the
model, this tensile crack is called a wing crack, which observations by Germanovich et al. [30–32] and
Germanovich and Dyskin [33], unlike in 2-D samples,
*Corresponding author. Tel.: +852-2766-6057; fax: +852-2334-
there are intrinsic limits on the growth of a crack in a
6389. 3-D model. However, the failure mechanism of rocks
E-mail address: cerwong@polyu.edu.hk (R.H.C. Wong). containing 3-D cracks is out of the scope of the present

1365-1609/01/$ - see front matter r 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 1 3 6 5 - 1 6 0 9 ( 0 1 ) 0 0 0 6 4 - 8
910 R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924

Flaw
2c

Shear Crack
Tensile Shear Crack
2b Crack Tensile Crack

(a) (b) (c)


Fig. 1. Three main modes of crack coalescence in 2-flaw specimens, where (a) is wing tensile mode, (b) is shear mode, and (c) is mixed mode (tensile
and shear). The flaw length 2c and the bridge distance between the two flaws 2b are fixed with 2c=12 mm and 2b=20 mm.

study. In particular, the fundamental mechanisms of It was found that the initial geometric setting of the
crack coalescence of 2-D model have not been fully parallel flaw controls the mechanism of crack coales-
investigated, and the failure process of flawed rocks is cence. The patterns of crack coalescence observed are
still not fully understood. Thus, the present study is similar to those reported in the study by Reyes and
focused only on the propagation of 2-D cracks. The Einstein [20]. The failure of flawed solids may occur in
following literatures are reviewed and experimental tensile and/or shear modes, depending on the geometric
studies are investigated on the 2-D models. relation between the two pre-existing flaws. Although
To study the failure of brittle rocks, Nemat-Nasser some of the fundamental mechanisms of crack coales-
and Horii [12] and Horii and Nemat-Nasser [14,15] cence have been established, understanding of the
investigated the mechanism of crack interactions and the complete failure process of flawed rocks and the
final failure pattern in fractured (flawed) plates made of patterns of crack coalescence is still incomplete.
Columbia resin CR39 under uniaxial as well as biaxial Based upon the experimental work of Reyes and
compression. Their specimens contain a series of flaws1 Einstein [20] and Shen et al. [21], Wong [22], Wong and
of different lengths and orientations (e.g. see Figs. 8,9 Chau [23–25] reconsidered the problems of crack
and 17,18 of reference [14]). They showed that flaw coalescence and the strength between two flaws using a
length is one of the parameters controlling the failure rock-like material (made of barite, sand, plaster and
pattern of the specimens. In general, larger flaws control water) under uniaxial compression. Three main factors
the mechanism of coalescence in the form of axial were varied to investigate the failure patterns: they are
splitting under uniaxial compression with little or no flaw angle ‘a’ (inclination of the flaw), bridge angle ‘b’
crack growth from the small flaws. Under biaxial (angle between two flaws) and frictional coefficient ‘m’ of
compression, the growth of larger flaws is followed by the flaw surface, under the conditions of a fixed flaw
the growth of smaller flaws and the final failure is a length ‘2c’ and a fixed distance between flaws ‘2b’ [23].
coalescence of the smaller flaws in a form of shear zone In general, three main modes of crack coalescence were
or fault. Their studies provide fundamental under- observed as shown in Fig. 1. They are the wing tensile
standing of macroscopic failure in relation to the crack mode (crack coalescence involving the growth of wing
distribution. However, the crack growth and its inter- cracks along the direction parallel to the compression),
action between two flaws are not fully understood. the shear mode (links between two flaws along the
Reyes [19] and Reyes and Einstein [20] studied the direction roughly parallel to the flaw), and the mixed
failure mechanisms of specimens containing two inclined mode (shear/tensile). As illustrated in Fig. 2, Wong and
non-overlapping open flaws. They found that wing Chau [23] proposed a classification of patterns for three
cracks and secondary cracks (which initiate after the different failure modes (tensile, shear and mixed), for
wing crack) may occur and eventually lead to coales- different combinations of flaw angle a; bridge angle b
cence under uniaxial compression. To incorporate the and frictional coefficient m on flaw surface. Triangles,
effect of crack surface friction, Shen et al. [21] conducted rhombuses and squares were the data points of the 2-
a series of uniaxial compressive tests on gypsum flaw specimens for shear, mixed and wing tensile modes,
specimens containing both open and closed fractures. respectively.
Actually, for similar flaw geometry under uniaxial
1
We will refer to the pre-existing fracture as a ‘flaw’, and the compression (i.e. similar a; b and b=c ¼ 1:6; the ratio of
initiated or propagated fracture as a ‘crack’. flaw length and bridge length) the patterns of crack
R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924 911

depend linearly on the number of pre-existing flaws


(density) once a threshold value of flaw density is
exceeded.
Although previous studies provide a general under-
standing of the coalescence pattern between two flaws,
when specimens contain three or more flaws, the crack
interaction between the flaws has not been studied
comprehensively. This is important because rock con-
tain many flaws. Thus, Wong et al. [28,29] reported very
briefly the results of specimens containing two flaws to
multiple flaws under both uniaxial and biaxial compres-
sion. The number of flaws in the specimens was from 3
to 42. To report the results more comprehensively, we
present in this paper only the results of crack
coalescence and peak stress of rock-like materials
containing three flaws. The research of this paper is of
fundamental importance to understand the mechanism
controlling crack coalescence in the multiple flawed
specimens.
In this study, the flaw angle a; bridge angle b and the
frictional coefficient m are varied under a fixed flaw
length ‘2c’ and bridge length ‘2b’, which have been
defined in Fig. 1. Our main interest is to investigate the
dominant factors controlling the failure patterns in
specimens containing three flaws. A further objective of
the present paper is to investigate the failure mechanism
of rock bridges in brittle materials containing multiple
flaws in order to represent fully the failure of intact rock.
The numerical study of the same problem is presented in
Fig. 2. Classifications of coalescence of a 2-flaw specimen with Part II [34].
different combinations of flaw angle a; bridge angle b and frictional
There are two general areas where a study of this type
coefficient m: (a) is the classification for m ¼ 0:6 and (b) is the
classification for m ¼ 0:7: Triangles, rhombuses and squares were the could prove useful: in problems of stability of rock in
data points of the 2-flaw specimens for shear, mixed and wing tensile civil engineering, such as the excavated underground
modes, respectively. The S-regime is the regime in which the shear openings or slopes, and in fracture mechanics involving
mode of crack coalescence is expected to occur. The M-regime is the multiple flaws. The relevant observations in the first case
regime in which the mixed shear/tensile mode of crack coalescence is
are that the collapse of a rock structure containing non-
likely to occur, and the W-regime is the regime in which wing crack
failures are expected (after Wong and Chau [23]). persistent joints may be preceded by several stages of
crack propagation, interaction and coalescence. Our
investigation should provide the fundamental under-
coalescence observed by Bobet and Einstein [26] fall standing of crack propagation, interaction and coales-
within the classification of Wong and Chau [23]. Bobet cence in rock under uniaxial compression. With respect
and Einstein [26] and Bobet [27] investigated the pattern to the contribution to fracture mechanics, the coales-
of crack coalescence under both uniaxial and biaxial cence of multiple non-persistent joints is involved in the
compression. They found that the patterns of crack fracture of all brittle materials.
coalescence not only depend on the flaw geometry but
also on the stress conditions. Wing cracks initiate at the
flaw tips for uniaxial or low confinement biaxial 2. Experimental studies
conditions, but the location of crack initiation moves
to the middle of the flaw and wing cracks disappear In order to have a good comparison between our
completely for higher confining stresses. For the relation present study and the previous study, the mixture of the
between the strength and the pattern of crack coales- modelling material is the same as that used by of Wong
cence of specimens, Wong [22] and Wong and Chau [24] and Chau [23], which is a mixture of barite, sand, plaster
found that the compressive strength of the specimen for and water with a mass ratio of 2 : 4 : 1 : 1.5. The average
wing crack coalescence is normally lower than that for values of unit weight, uniaxial compressive strength,
shear crack coalescence. Furthermore, Wong and Chau tensile strength and frictional coefficient of the model-
[25] found that the strength of cracked solids does not ling material are gm ¼ 17:68 kN/m3, scm ¼ 2:09 MPa,
912 R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924

stm ¼ 0:35 MPa and mm ¼ 0:62; respectively. The aver-


age value of the tangent Young’s modulus (Em ) at 50%
of peak strength is 0.33 GPa and the Poisson’s ratio (nm )
is 0.19. The fracture toughness KIC of the modelling
material is 0.0443 MPam1/2. The p factors of dimen-
sional analysis of this artificial material have been found
comparable to the physical ranges of the p factors for
sandstone; therefore, Wong and Chau [23] concluded
that the material is appropriate as a sandstone-like
modelling material. The overall dimensions of specimens
containing three flaws are 60 mm wide  120 mm
long  25 mm thick. To simplify the present analysis,
the bridge length 2b (distance between two flaws) and
the flaw length 2c are fixed at 20 and 12 mm,
respectively.
Flaws were created by inserting steel shims into three
slots in the mould template and removing them during
curing (Fig. 3). Different degrees of the roughness of the
flaw surface are created by applying different numbers
of punch marks to the smooth steel shims (Fig. 4). The
frictional coefficients on the flaw surfaces are measured
by the titling test on specimens with a through going Fig. 4. The stainless steel shims with different roughness used in
flaw. The mean frictional coefficient on flaw surfaces creating the flaws in the modelling material. The top and lower shims
simulated by inserting plain steel shim is 0.6, while give a frictional coefficient of 0.6 and 0.7 on the surfaces of the flaws,
that simulated by steel shim with punched-indentations respectively.
is 0.7.
Two different flaw angles ‘a’ were used to investigate of 151. Thus, there are two different bridge angles
the effect of flaw geometry on the pattern of crack between the three flaws. As is illustrated in Fig. 2, the
coalescence. The chosen flaw angles are 451 and 651, flaw settings of b ¼ 451 result in a shear coalescence
where 651 is the preferred orientation for the frictional pattern, and the other settings of b ¼ 751 to 1201 result
flaws (m ¼ 0:620:7) of the specimen to slide under in mixed and tensile coalescence modes. Therefore, we
uniaxial compression [23]. The layout of specimens can investigate whether coalescence occurs along the
containing three flaws is shown in Fig. 5. For sake of rock bridge of b1 (i.e. shear crack coalescence), along
later discussions, the three flaws are labelled as , and that rock bridge of b2 (i.e. tensile and mixed crack
, respectively. coalescence), or along the rock bridge of both b1 and b2 :
As shown in Fig. 5, there are two bridge angles b1 and Then the possible relevance of the coalescence in the 2-
b2 for the three-flaw model. In the experiments, b1 flaw-specimens to the 3-flaw-specimens can also be
(between flaws and ) is fixed at 451, and b2 (between examined.
flaws and ) varies from 751 to 1201 with increments To obtain reliable results in the experiment, the
sample preparation procedures were under well control.
The modelling materials were weighed by using the
electronic weighting balance to a 70.01. Each mixing
procedure was under time control where for the mixture
of barium sulphate and sand it was 4 min. Then cold
water was added evenly and mixed until all particles had
been wetted (4 min). Finally, plaster was added and
mixed evenly until the mixture became a churn-like
paste (7 min). The mixture was then poured into a
mould under vibration (4 min).
To prevent the boundary condition of specimen
affecting the results of experiments, the positions of
three pre-existing flaws were designed as far away as
possible from the side boundaries of specimen. Other-
wise, local failure may be observed instead of crack
Fig. 3. Flaws are created in the specimen by inserting stainless steel coalescence between the pre-existing flaws during the
shims into three slots in the mould template. testing.
R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924 913

one specimen to failure. Two LVDTs were installed in


the front and behind the specimen for measuring the
vertical deformation of the specimen. Only three of
specimens fail suddenly after peak applied stress;
otherwise, the recorded displacement rate is rather
steady up to peak applied stress and even after.
Therefore, there should be no appreciable difference
between the displacement and load control in our
Outer Flaw Tip particular case. Thus, the loading process can be
considered as displacement-controlled approximately.
The setting of the apparatus is shown in Fig. 6 where a
load cell of 5 kN is placed below the lower loading
Inner Flaw Tip platen to measure the applied load. To reduce the
1 friction between the specimen and the loading platens,
β1 two pieces of polythene sheet were inserted. All speci-
Inner Flaw Tip mens were loaded until either the flaws coalesced or the
specimen failed, which is identified by the drop in the
β2 applied load. All the loading and displacement records
2 are transferred to and stored in an IBM PC through a
3
KYOWA UCAM-5B Data Logger.
α In all the reported experiments, no local failure was
observed, thus no sample boundaries affect to the results
of our experiment.
Outer Flaw Tip

3. The coalescence of cracks

3.1. Comparisons of the patterns of crack coalescence


between specimens containing two and three flaws

Wong and Chau [23] concluded that there are three


modes of coalescence in the bridge area, wing tensile,
shear and mixed (tensile and shear), for specimens
Fig. 5. The layout of specimens containing three flaws. The inclina-
containing two flaws. To compare the patterns of crack
tions of the pre-existing flaws a used in this study are 451 and 651. The
bridge angle of b1 is fixed at 451, while b2 vary from 751 to 1201. The coalescence between specimens containing two and three
length of flaw 2c is fixed at 12 mm. The bridge distance between the flaws, Figs. 7 and 8 report all the failure patterns
two flaws 2b is fixed at 20 mm. The inner and outer flaw tips are also for various values of flaw angle (a ¼ 451 and 651),
shown. bridge angle (b ¼ 451; 751–1201) and frictional co-
efficient (m ¼ 0:6 and 0.7) for 2- and 3-flaw-specimens,
In this study, two specimens with the same parameters respectively.
have been cast and tested. If the pattern of crack The notations S (shear mode crack coalescence), MI,
coalescence for both specimens is the same, the mean MII (mixed shear/tensile mode crack coalescence), WI,
value of the peak strength is taken. If only one fails by WII, WIII and WII/III (wing tensile mode crack
crack coalescence and the other fails but without crack coalescence) are the same as those used in Fig. 6 of
coalescence, one more specimen with the same para- Wong and Chau [23] which is also given in Fig. 9 here.
meters was prepared and tested. If both specimens failed For the S-type coalescence, crack links between the tip
with no crack coalescence, two more specimens with the of two flaws along the direction roughly parallel to the
same parameters were prepared and tested. If, again, no flaw. For the MI-type coalescence, the growing wing
crack coalescence was observed for these additional cracks, which initiated from the two tips of the flaws, are
specimens, the mean peak strength of these specimens is coalesced by a shear crack in the middle of bridge area.
recorded for comparison purposes only. For the MII-type of coalescence, a growing wing crack
The uniaxial compression tests of the specimens were is coalesced by a shear crack that appeared at the other
performed in a Wykeham Farrance WF-5562s loading tip of a flaw. The WI-type of coalescence is a simple
machine. This is a load control machine available in our coalescence between two wing cracks. The WII-type of
rock mechanics laboratory. The average loading rate is coalescence is resulted as a growing wing crack coalesces
about 0.002 kN/s, and it takes about 25–30 min to load with the other flaw. The WIII-type of coalescence is a
914 R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924

Fig. 6. The layout of the loading system with the displacement recording system.

growing wing crack joining the outer tip of the other settings. There are three possible scenarios in the process
flaw. From comparisons of Figs. 7 and 8, for the same of crack growth. (1) In about 27% of the specimens,
a=b it is observed that the type of failure patterns in the tensile cracks (wing cracks) initiate first at the tips of the
3-flaw specimens are the same as those for the 2-flaw two flaws (either the flaw , or ) followed by wing
specimens. Coalescence in the 3-flaw specimens can crack initiation from a third flaw at a later stage.
again be identified as either shear S, wing tensile WI or However, no matter which wing crack initiates first,
mixed (tensile and shear) MI and MII depending on the crack coalescence occurs only between two flaws (flaws
values of a; m and the coalescence angle bc ; defined as the and ) at failure. (2) In about 60% of the specimens,
bridge angle along which the crack coalescence occurs wing cracks initiate from only two flaws (either between
(i.e. either b1 or b2 ). Unlike the studies on 2-flaw models flaws and or flaws and ), with no wing crack
(Fig. 7), coalescence with a bridge angle b of 1201 was nucleating from the third flaw during the whole loading
not observed in all specimens with three flaws (Fig. 8). process and the final coalescence also does not involve
For 3-flaw specimens with bridge angles of b1 ; b2 ¼ 451; the third crack. (3) In the remaining 13% of specimens,
1201, coalescence occurs only for b1 ¼ 451 but not for wing cracks initiate from all three flaws at the same time,
b2 ¼ 1201 (Fig. 8). but no crack coalescence is observed at failure.
The classification given in Fig. 2 of this study suggests The process of coalescence between the growing wing
that the appearance of these modes of coalescence cracks is normally slow enough to be captured by eye
depends on the values of a; b and m: The patterns of observation. It is observed that crack initiates first at
crack coalescence for 3-flaw specimens in the a  bc either inner tip or outer tip of the flaws, followed by
space for m ¼ 0:6 and 0.7 were superimposed onto the crack growth at the other tip of the same flaw (see the
regime classification given in Fig. 2; and the results are definitions of inner and outer tips in Fig. 5). In general,
plotted on Fig. 10. The triangles, rhombuses and the growth of cracks at the outer tips is faster than that
squares in circles are used to denote the data points observed at the inner tips. The growth rate of each inner
for shear, mixed and wing tensile modes observed in the crack is not the same. When an inner crack grows
3-flaw specimens, respectively. Except for one specimen rapidly, the other inner tip of flaw normally grows much
with a=bc =m ¼ 451=1051=0:6 (see Fig. 10a), it is found slower and even seems to stop growing. This is because
that all of the experimental results for 3-flaw specimens of the higher stress concentration around the growing
fall within the same regimes classification of 2-flaw inner crack tip and causing the crack to grow further.
specimens. With a nearby propagating inner crack, a high stress
concentration at the neighbouring inner crack tip will be
3.2. General observation for 3-flaw specimens affected. A further discussion of stress distribution
within the bridge area will be presented in Part II of
Experimental observations (see Fig. 8) show that this study [34]. The types of cracking in the bridge area
crack coalescence occurred in 14 out of the 16 geometric between the three flaws can be wing tensile, shear, or a
R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924 915

Fig. 7. The mode of crack coalescence for specimens containing two flaws. The angles b represent the bridge angle with m ¼ 0:6 and 0.7. The
notations S (shear mode crack coalescence), MI, MII (mixed mode crack coalescence), WI, WII, WIII and WII/III (wing tensile mode crack
coalescence) are the same as those proposed in Fig. 6 of Wong and Chau [23] or Fig. 9 of this paper.

mix of these. Furthermore, it is observed that if the Fig. 8 illustrates the very important feature that crack
growth rate of the inner cracks is the same, no coalescence occurs only between two flaws either
coalescence occurs even when the applied stress drops. between flaws and or between and , and never
In general, when an inner crack coalesces with the between flaws and . What makes the flaw to
neighbouring inner crack, the applied stress will coalesce with the flaw but why not the or the
decrease. The test is stopped until the axial stress drops reverse order? Why crack coalescence does not occur
to 70% of the peak stress. between flaws and under uniaxial compression?
916 R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924

Fig. 8. The mode of crack coalescence for specimens containing three flaws with 16 combinations of a; (b1 ; b2 ) and m: The bridge angles b1 shows the
angle between flaws and , b2 shows the angle between flaws and . The notations S, MI, MII and WI are the same as those in Fig. 9.

What is the dominant factor that controls the failure specimens, the following rules of coalescence are
patterns in the multiple flawed specimens? The following formulated:
section attempts to address these questions by formulat-
ing two rules of coalescence for the 3-flaw models. Rule 1. Crack coalescence always occurs between
that pair of flaws for which the coalescence stress is
smaller.
3.3. Rules of coalescence for solids containing 3 frictional
flaws Rule 2. Mixed and tensile modes of crack coalescence
are always the dominant modes when the values of the
By comparing the experimental mode of failure coalescence stress between the pairs of flaws are very
observations on 3-flaw specimens with those for 2-flaw close (say within 5%).
R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924 917

Shear
Shear Crack
Shear
Crack Crack
Wing
Wing Crack
Crack

S MI M II

Wing Wing
Crack Crack
Wing
Crack

WI W II W III

Fig. 9. Six different patterns of crack coalescence observed in the 2-flaw specimens. The notations S, M and W indicate the shear, mixed (shear/
tensile) and wing tensile mode crack coalescence, respectively (after Wong and Chau [23]).

To demonstrate the above rules, the observed data of that comply with ‘‘Rule 1’’ are marked with super-
the 3-flaw specimens are summarised in Table 1. The script ‘‘1’’.
peak strength results (or coalescence stress, in general, However, some data in Table 1 do not comply with
crack coalescence was observed at about the peak Rule 1. For example (see Table 1), for the 3-flaw
strength of specimen) for the 2-flaw specimens are specimen with the parameter set a=ðb1 ; b2 Þ=m ¼
tabulated in Table 1 together with the results for the 3- 65=ð45; 75Þ=0:6; the coalescence stress for 2-flaw speci-
flaw specimens with the same a; m and bc (coalescence men with a=bc ¼ 651=451 is 1.42 MPa, for specimen
angle). For example, for the 3-flaw specimens with the with a=bc ¼ 651=751 is 1.45 MPa. If ‘‘Rule 1’’ is the
parameter set a=ðb1 ; b2 Þ=m ¼ 451=ð451; 751Þ=0:6; there only rule for coalescence, the angle of coalescence bc for
are two possible angles of coalescence bc ¼ 451 (coales- data set a=ðb1 ; b2 Þ=m ¼ 65=ð45; 75Þ=0:6 should be 451
cence between flaw and ) or bc ¼ 751 (coalescence (coalescence between flaws and ) instead of 751
between flaw and ). The coalescence stress for 2-flaw (coalescence between flaws and ). However, the
specimen with a=bc ¼ 451=451 is 1.67 MPa, compared coalescence in 3-flaw specimen is between flaws and
with 1.59 MPa for specimen with a=bc ¼ 451=751 (this (Table 1 and Fig. 11b). Consequently, ‘‘Rule 2’’ is
coalescence stress is smaller than 1.67 MPa). Fig. 11 formulated for crack coalescence for 3-flaw models as:
shows the peak strength and crack coalescence of 2-flaw ‘‘when the coalescence stress of the two pairs of flaw is
specimens of b ¼ 451 and 751 and 3-flaw specimen of very close (say within 5%), mixed and tensile modes of
b1 =b2 ¼ 451=751 with the same m (0.6) and the same a crack coalescence always dominate’’. All data that
together. The mode of coalescence for the 3-flaw comply with ‘‘Rule 2’’ are indicated by the superscript
specimens is clearly the same as that for the 2-flaw ‘‘2’’ in Table 1.
specimen with a=bc ¼ 451=751 (between flaws and Table 1 shows that 12 of the 14 coalescence sets of 3-
in Fig. 11a). Therefore, ‘‘Rule 1’’ applies in this case. flaw data conform to these rules of coalescence, a
That is, a bc value that corresponds to the smaller conformity of 86%. If b2 equals to 751 or 901, the
coalescence stress seems to prevail in the process of conformity is 100%. Since these rules of crack coales-
crack coalescence. In the lower part of Table 1, all data cence are rather preliminary based on limited tests,
918 R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924

Fig. 10. (a,b) Modes of crack coalescence for specimens containing three flaws superimposed onto the classifications given in Fig. 2. Symbols ,
and indicate the shear, mixed shear/tensile and wing tensile modes of coalescence observed in the 3-flaw specimens, respectively.

numerical simulation studies were conducted and will be Nemat-Nasser and Horii [12]). In order to give a clear
presented in Part II of this study [34]. discussion and illustration, Fig. 12 reproduces the
Up to this stage, it cannot be explained why crack experimental observation given in Fig. 18(b) of Nemat-
coalescence does not occur between flaws and . The Nasser and Horii [12]. Three of the flaws are named
following section attempts to address this question by similar to the 3-flaw specimens of , and . Under
comparison with Nemat-Nasser and Horii [12]. uniaxial compression, wing cracks initiate and propa-
gate (the solid line) from the tips of the flaws. The wing
3.4. Comparison with Nemat-Nasser and Horii (1982) cracks from the lower row flaw tips (e.g. flaw )
propagate upward to the upper one (e.g. flaw ), and
It is instructive to compare the observations of this those wing cracks from the upper row flaw tips grow
study to those by Nemat-Nasser and Horii [12], who downward to the lower one. However, the specimens
used Columbia resin CR39 as the modelling material. failed by axial splitting rather than localized coalescence
The specimens were 6 mm thick, flaw lengths about failure. In contrast, coalescence failures were formed in
12 mm, flaw widths or openings about 0.4 mm, and each the specimens for this study (see Fig. 8) under uniaxial
crack was lined with two 0.2 mm thick brass shims in compression for the same values of a and b: This
order to reduce friction between the two flaw faces. The discrepancy between the present study and that by
flaw distance (bridge length) was 12 mm and a was 451. Nemat-Nasser and Horii [12] may have resulted from:
The specimens contained two rows of two parallel (i) their material and the one used in this study are
collinear flaws with b1 of 451 and b2 of 901 (estimated by conducive to different modes of failure even though
direct measurements on Figs. 17(a–c) and 18(a–b) of both are brittle; and (ii) their frictional coefficient m
R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924 919

Table 1
A comparison of the experimental peak strength for specimens containing two flaws and three flaws

Two flaws

a (1) b1 (1) m ¼ 0:6 m ¼ 0:7

bc (1) Peak strength (MPa) bc (1) Peak strength (MPa)

45 45 45 1.67 45 1.88
75 75 1.59 75 1.80
90 90 1.59 90 1.57
105 105 1.88 105 1.84
120 120 1.64 120 1.73

65 45 45 1.42 45 1.44
75 75 1.45 75 1.49
90 90 1.49 90 1.48
105 105 1.51 105 1.52
120 Nob 1.46 120 1.48

Three flaws
a (1) b1 ; b2 m ¼ 0:6 m ¼ 0:7

bc (1) Peak strength (MPa) bc (1) Peak strength (MPa)


1 1
45 45, 75 75 1.59 75 1.73
45, 90 901 1.57 901 1.73
45, 105 105a 1.60 1051 1.61
45, 120 Nob 1.69 45a 1.70

65 45, 75 752 1.43 752 1.58


45, 90 902 1.42 902 1.52
45, 105 451 1.51 451 1.62
45, 120 451 1.51 Nob 1.58
a
These results do not comply with the ‘‘rule of failure’’.
b
No crack coalescence occurs at failure.
751 Data comply with Rule 1.
902 Data comply with Rule 2.

(which is actually not given) may be very small a higher value of m had been used in our study, therefore
comparing to that of the present study. As illustrated no crack coalescence is observed between flaws and
in Wong and Chau [23], deviation of the orientation of in our 3-flaws study. As reviewed from Fig. 8, for those
wing cracks from the line of flaw decreases with increase cracks initiated from flaws and , the growth of inner
of m: To further illustrate the second possible reason, tip of flaw propagates towards flaw , while the
Fig. 8 from Wong and Chau [23] is redrawn in Fig. 12 growth of outer tip of flaw grows towards the edge of
(the small figure at the left lower corner) together with specimen under uniaxial compression. For the same flaw
the reproduction of Nemat-Nasser and Horii [12]. As arrangement under a biaxial compression [28], second-
shown in the figure, if a higher value of m had been used ary crack can initiate at the outer tip of flaw ,
on the surfaces of the flaws, the path for the growth of propagate towards flaw and coalesce. In this case,
wing cracks would have been more likely to follow a failure involves three flaws.
path linking the flaw tips (between flaws and ,
indicated by the dotted line in Fig. 12). Therefore, it is
clear from the small figure of Fig. 12 that specimens with 4. Peak strength of flawed specimens
a higher value of the frictional coefficient m on the flaw
surfaces are more conducive to wing crack coalescence Table 1 shows that the peak strength for specimens
compared to cases of small m values (as in the with the same a; b and m are basically the same,
experiment of Nemat-Nasser & Horii [12]). If zero m regardless of whether they contain two or three flaws.
value has been used on the surfaces of the flaws, the path In other words, peak strength appears not to decrease
for the growth of wing cracks would have been more proportionally with the initial flaw density.
likely to follow a path linking the flaw tips between These observations not only appear in 3-flaw specimens,
and (indicated by the dotted line in Fig. 12). However, but also were observed in the modelling specimens
920 R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924

Fig. 11. (a,b) The mode of crack coalescence and the peak stress of specimens containing two flaws and three flaws with the same a; b and m
presented here for discussion on the two rules of coalescence for solids containing three flaws.

containing multiple flaws (18 and 42 with the specimen the following total stress intensity factor KI for the
size of 400 mm  400 mm  25 mm [24]). This is also growth of wing cracks:
precisely what was observed for the Hong Kong granite " #
by Wong and Chau [25], and Yuen Long marble by KI ðsin 2c  m þ m cos 2cÞ 1
pffiffiffiffiffi ¼ 0:23L þ pffiffiffi
Wong et al. [35] that peak strength does not decrease s1 pc ð1 þ LÞ3=2 3ð1 þ LÞ1=2
with initial flaw density once a threshold value of flaw  
2e0 ðL þ cos cÞ 1=2
density is exceeded. We speculate that the peak strength þ ; ð1Þ
p
for a specimen is not proportional to the number of
flaws, and the following hypothesis is thus proposed. where s1 is the uniaxial compression, c is the angle
The peak strength for flawed specimens does not depend measured from the s1 -direction to the direction along
on the total number of pre-existing flaws, but only on the the flaw surface (i.e. c ¼ 901  a), 2c is the length of the
number of flaws actually involved in the formation of the pre-existing flaw, L ¼ c=c is the normalized length of the
failure pattern. (Note, the above conclusion is from wing cracks (c is the length of the growing wing crack),
specimens with fixed flaw spacing of 20 mm [24], and m is the frictional coefficient along the shear or frictional
from Yuen Long marble with varying flaw spacing from flaw, and the flaw density e0 is defined as Nc2 =A (N is the
53 to 106 mm [35]). number of flaw per area A). Although strictly speaking
To examine this hypothesis, the model by Ashby and (1) is for the case of multiple initial flaws, it was found
Hallam [16] is employed. Ashby and Hallam [16] derived that it can also be applied to the specimen containing
R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924 921

coalesced wing cracks, and 2b is the distance between


the two flaws). In this study, the initial flaw density of
specimens containing three flaws is e0 ¼ 0:015
(e0 ¼ Nc2 =A note that N ¼ 3; A ¼ 0:06 m  0.12 m and
c ¼ 0:006 m). Predictions of the normalized peak
1 OðpcÞ=KIC Þ) by using Eq. (2) and the
strength (ðsmax
experimental observations are tabulated in Table 3. To
demonstrate the above hypothesis, the peak strength of
β1 the specimens containing 18 and 42 flaws [24] are
Possible path for crack tabulated in Table 3 together with the results for the 3-
growth if µ is higher flaw specimens with the same flaw length 2c, bridge
β2 length 2b, a; b and m: For the specimen containing 18
1
flaws, 3 rows of 6 collinear flaws are placed at the central
region. For the specimen containing 42 flaws, the flaw
2 arrangement is 9 rows of 4 collinear flaws at the central
region and 2 rows of 3 parallel flaws at the upper and
Wing Crack lower ends of specimen. The density of the multiple
µ = 0.9 3 flawed specimens for 18 and 42 flaws are e0 ¼ 0:016 and
0.7
0.6 0.038, respectively (Table 3). It is found that if initial
0.0 Possible path for
flaw density e0 is used in the calculation, the prediction is
crack growth if µ much lower than the experimental observations. The
is zero hypothesis was then tested by using the number of flaws
Pre-existing involved in the formation of the failure pattern in
Flaw
calculating flaw density ef: For the 3-flaw specimen, ef ¼
From Fig.8 of Wong 0:01 is used, because the observations presented in this
1 in
and Chau [23]
study show that final crack coalescence involves only
two flaws but not three. For 18- and 42-flaws specimens,
the number of flaws involved in the failure pattern are 15
and 5. Thus the values of the adjusted crack density are
ef ¼ 0:0135 and 0.0045, respectively. It is found that the
Fig. 12. Shows the effect of m on the path of wing crack propagation.
predicted peak strength based on flaw density ef agrees
The specimen with two parallel rows of collinear pre-existing cracks is
adopted from Fig. 18 of Nemat-Nasser and Horii [12]. For a higher m; well with the experiments, as shown in Table 3.
the possible path for crack growth may occur between flaws and .
For a lower mE0; the possible path for crack growth may appear
between flaws and . The small figure showing the effect of m on the
path of wing crack from Fig. 8 of Wong and Chau [23] is redrawn here 5. Conclusions
for comparison.
In this study, experimental results on the mechanism
of crack coalescence and on the peak strength of rock-
two flaws (see Table 2 of [23] which is also given in like materials containing three flaws under uniaxial
Table 2 of present study). Therefore, the peak uni- compression loading were presented. The specimens
axial compressive strength smax
1 of a flawed solid can be used in this study are made of a sandstone-like material
estimated as Wong and Chau [23]: and contain three parallel frictional flaws. Various
smax
1
values of inclination of these flaw angles a; the bridge
( angle b and the frictional coefficient m were used in our
KIC ½sin 2c  m þ m cos 2c parametric studies. For specimens containing three
¼ pffiffiffiffiffi
pc ð1 þ Lcr Þ3=2 flaws, it was found that:
" #
1
 0:23Lcr þ pffiffiffi * Crack coalescence occurs between only two flaws (not
3ð1 þ Lcr Þ1=2
three).
  )1
2e0 ðLcr þ cos cÞ 1=2 * The mechanisms of crack coalescence depend on the
þ ; ð2Þ coalescence stress of the pair of flaws. The lower
p
value of coalescence stress between the pair of flaws
where KIC is the fracture toughness (0.0443 MPaOm for will dominate the process of coalescence.
our modelling material), Lcr ¼ cmax =cðcmax ¼ 2b sin b is * Mixed and wing tensile modes of coalescence are
the maximum possible value for the length of the more likely to occur than shear mode, if the
922 R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924

Table 2
The experimental and theoretical results of the peak strength of specimens containing two flaws (Wong and Chau [23])

a (1) b (1) Normalized peak stress s1 OðpcÞ=KIC ðm ¼ 0:6Þ Normalized peak stress s1 OðpcÞ=KIC ðm ¼ 0:7Þ

Experimental Theoretical Experimental Theoretical

45 45 5.17 5.19 5.84 5.53


45 75 4.95 4.93 5.67 5.19
45 90 4.94 4.89 4.85a 5.14
45 105 5.81 4.93 5.69 5.19
45 120 5.07 5.03 5.37 5.32
65 45 4.41 4.54 4.47 4.63
65 75 4.48 4.42 4.61 4.49
65 90 4.62 4.40 4.59 4.47
65 105 4.68 4.42 4.71 4.49
65 120 4.53 4.48 4.58 4.55
a
Specimens show partial-surface-contact along the pre-existing flaws.

Table 3
Experimental and theoretical results for the peak strength of specimens containing three flaws and multiple flaws

3-flaw specimen

a (1) b1 ; b2 (1) Coalescence Normalized peak strength (s1 OðpcÞ=KIC ) (m ¼ 0:6Þ


angle bc (1)
Experimental Theoretical

Three Two flaws


flaws e0 ¼ 0:015 ef ¼ 0:01

45 45, 75 75 4.92 4.19 4.93


45, 90 90 4.85 4.16 4.89
45, 105 105 4.96 4.19 4.93
45, 120 No 5.22 F F
65 45, 75 75 4.44 3.80 4.42
45, 90 90 4.40 3.78 4.40
45, 105 45 4.67 3.96 4.54
45, 120 45 4.69 3.96 4.54

a (1) b1 ; b2 (1) bc (1) Normalized peak strength ðs1 OðpcÞ=KIC Þ (m ¼ 0:7Þ

Experimental Theoretical

Three flaws Two flaws


e0 ¼ 0:015 ef ¼ 0:01

45 45, 75 75 5.36 4.38 5.19


45, 90 90 5.36 4.34 5.14
45, 105 105 5.00 4.38 5.18
45, 120 45 5.27 4.71 5.53
65 45, 75 75 4.91 3.86 4.49
45, 90 90 4.72 3.84 4.46
45, 105 45 5.02 4.03 4.63
45, 120 No 4.91 F F

Multiple flawed specimen (Wong and Chau [24])


a (1) Initial flaws Coalescence Flaws involved in failure pattern Normalized peak strength
angle bc (1) ðs1 OðpcÞ=KIC Þ (m ¼ 0:6Þ

Number e0 Number ef Experimental Theoretical

e0 ef

45 18 0.016 75 15 0.0135 4.39 4.06 4.38


45 42 0.038 75 5 0.0045 6.72 2.84 6.63
R.H.C. Wong et al. / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 38 (2001) 909–924 923

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