Analysis of crack coalescence in rock-like materials containing three flaws - Part I: Experimental approach

R. H.C. Wong, Kam Tim Chau, C. A. Tang, P. Lin

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

515 Citations (Scopus)


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 μ 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-924
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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