02 Nov 2022
02 Nov 2022
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Time-dependent Frictional Properties of Granular Materials Used In Analogue Modelling: Implications for mimicking fault healing during reactivation and inversion

Michael Rudolf1,2, Matthias Rosenau2, and Onno Oncken2 Michael Rudolf et al.
  • 1Institute of Applied Geosciences, Fachgebiet Ingenieurgeologie, Technical University Darmstadt, Schnittspahnstraße 9, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany
  • 2Lithosphere Dynamics, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Telegrafenberg, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. Analogue models are commonly used to model long-term geological processes such as mountain building or basin inversion. The majority of these models use granular materials like sand or glass beads to simulate the brittle behaviour of the crust. In granular materials deformation is localized into shear bands that act as analogues to natural fault zones and detachments. Shear bands aka faults are persistent anomalies in the granular package and are frequently reactivated during an experimental run. This is due to their lower strength in comparison to the undeformed bulk material. When fault motion stops, time dependent healing immediately starts to increase the strength of the fault. Therefore, older faults show a higher strength in comparison to younger faults. This time dependent healing, also called time consolidation, can therefore affect the structural style of an analogue model due to evolution of fault strength over time. Time consolidation is a well known mechanism in granular mechanics but remains poorly characterized for analogue materials and on the timescales of typical analogue models. In this study, we estimate the healing rate of several analogue materials and evaluate the consequences on the reactivation potential of analogue faults. We find that the healing rates are generally below 3 % per tenfold increase in hold time which is comparable to natural fault zones. We qualitatively compare the frictional properties of the materials with grain characteristics and find a weak correlation of healing rates with sphericity and friction with an average quality score. In models where predefined faults exist or reactivation is forced by blocks, the stability region of fault angles that can be reactivated can accordingly decrease by up to 7° over the duration of 12 hours. The stress required to reactivate a preexisting fault can double in the same time which may favor the creation of new faults. In a basin inversion scenario, normal faults can not be inverted due to severe misorientation and therefore time consolidation plays only a minor additional role for such models.

Michael Rudolf et al.

Status: open (until 27 Dec 2022)

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Michael Rudolf et al.

Michael Rudolf et al.


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Short summary
Analogue models of tectonic processes rely on the reproduction of their geometry, kinematics and dynamics. An important property is fault behaviour which is linked to the frictional characteristics of the fault gouge. This is represented by granular materials, such as quartz sand. In our study we investigate the time-dependent frictional properties of various analogue materials and highlight their impact on the suitability of these materials for analogue models focusing on fault reactivation.