Numerical investigation of progressive damage and associated seismicity on a laboratory fault

Qi Zhao, Nicola Tisato, Aly Abdelaziz, Johnson Ha, Giovanni Grasselli

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding rock shear failure behavior is crucial to gain insights into slip-related geohazards such as rock avalanches, landslides, and earthquakes. However, descriptions of the progressive damage on the shear surface are still incomplete or ambiguous. In this study, we use the hybrid finite-discrete element method (FDEM) to simulate a shear experiment and obtain a detailed comprehension of shear induced progressive damage and the associated seismic activity. We built a laboratory fault model from high resolution surface scans and micro-CT imaging. Our results show that under quasi-static shear loading, the fault surface experiences local dynamic seismic activities. We found that the seismic activity is related to the stress concentration on interlocking asperities. This interlocking behavior (i) causes stress concentration at the region of contact that could reach the compressive strength, and (ii) produces tensile stress up to the tensile strength in the region adjacent to the contact area. Thus, different failure mechanisms and damage patterns including crushing and sub-vertical fracturing are observed on the rough surface. Asperity failure creates rapid local slips resulting in significant stress perturbations that alter the overall stress condition and may trigger the slip of adjacent critically stressed asperities. We found that the spatial distribution of the damaged asperities and the seismic activity is highly heterogeneous; regions with intense asperity interactions formed gouge material, while others exhibit minimal to no damage. These results emphasize the important role of surface roughness in controlling the overall shear behavior and the local dynamic seismic activities on faults.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105392
JournalInternational Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • Asperity
  • Seismicity
  • Shear behavior
  • Shear induced damage
  • Surface roughness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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