Velocity dependence of strength and healing behaviour in simulated phyllosilicate-bearing fault gouge

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Abstract

Despite the fact that phyllosilicates are widespread in fault zones, little is known about the strength of phyllosilicate-bearing fault rocks under brittle-ductile transitional conditions. In this study, we explored the steady state strength and healing behaviour of a simulated phyllosilicate-bearing fault rock, i.e. muscovite plus halite and brine, at room temperature, normal stresses of 1-9 MPa, atmospheric fluid pressure and sliding velocities of 0.001-13 μm/s, using a rotary shear apparatus. While 100% halite and 100% muscovite samples exhibit rate-independent frictional/brittle behaviour, the strength of mixtures containing 10-50% muscovite is both normal stress and sliding velocity dependent. At low velocities (<1 μm/s), strength increases with increasing velocity and normal stress, and a mylonitic foliation develops. This behaviour results from pressure solution in the halite grains, which accommodates frictional sliding on the phyllosilicate foliation. The pervasive muscovite foliation, which coats all halite grains, prevents significant healing. At high velocities (> 1 μm/s), velocity-weakening frictional behaviour occurs, along with the development of a structureless, intermixed, cataclastic microstructure. The steady state porosity of samples deformed in this regime increases with increasing sliding velocity. We propose that this behaviour involves competition between dilatation due to granular flow and compaction due to pressure solution. Towards higher sliding velocities, dilatation increasingly dominates over pressure solution compaction, so that porosity increases and frictional strength decreases. During periods of zero slip, pressure solution compaction occurs, causing a significant strength increase on reshearing. Our results imply that cataclastic overprinting of mylonitic rocks in natural fault zones does not require any changes in temperature or effective pressure conditions, but can simply result from oscillating fault motion rates. Our healing data suggest that foliated, aseismically creeping fault segments will remain weak and aseismic, whereas segments that have slipped seismically will rapidly re-strengthen and remain in the unstable, velocity-weakening regime.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-253
Number of pages23
JournalTectonophysics
Volume427
Issue number1-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Keywords

  • Geowetenschappen en aanverwante (milieu)wetenschappen

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