Numerical simulation of acoustic emission in brittle rocks by two-dimensional finite-discrete element analysis

A. Lisjak, Q. Liu, Q. Zhao, O. K. Mahabadi, G. Grasselli

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

195 Citations (Scopus)


Stress waves, known as acoustic emissions (AEs), are released by localized inelastic deformation events during the progressive failure of brittle rocks. Although several numerical models have been developed to simulate the deformation and damage processes of rocks, such as non-linear stress-strain behaviour and localization of failure, only a limited number have been capable of providing quantitative information regarding the associated seismicity. Moreover, the majority of these studies have adopted a pseudo-static approach based on elastic strain energy dissipation that completely disregards elastodynamic effects. This paper describes a new AE modelling technique based on the combined finite-discrete element method (FEM/DEM), a numerical tool that simulates material failure by explicitly considering fracture nucleation and propagation in the modelling domain. Given the explicit time integration scheme of the solver, stress wave propagation and the effect of radiated seismic energy can be directly captured. Quasi-dynamic seismic information is extracted from a FEM/DEM model with a newly developed algorithm based on the monitoring of internal variables (e.g. relative displacements and kinetic energy) in proximity to propagating cracks. The AE of a wing crack propagation model based on this algorithm are cross-analysed by traveltime inversion and energy estimation from seismic recordings. Results indicate a good correlation of AE initiation times and locations, and scaling of energies, independently calculated with the two methods. Finally, the modelling technique is validated by simulating a laboratory compression test on a granite sample. The micromechanical parameters of the heterogeneous model are first calibrated to reproduce the macroscopic stress-strain response measured during standard laboratory tests. Subsequently, AE frequency-magnitude statistics, spatial clustering of source locations and the evolution of AE rate are investigated. The distribution of event magnitude tends to decay as power law while the spatial distribution of sources exhibits a fractal character, in agreement with experimental observations. Moreover, the model can capture the decrease of seismic b value associated with the macrorupture of the rock sample and the transition of AE spatial distribution from diffuse, in the pre-peak stage, to strongly localized at the peak and post-peak stages, as reported in a number of published laboratory studies. In future studies, the validated FEM/DEM-AE modelling technique will be used to obtain further insights into the micromechanics of rock failure with potential applications ranging from laboratory-scale microcracking to engineering-scale processes (e.g. excavations within mines, tunnels and caverns, petroleum and geothermal reservoirs) to tectonic earthquakes triggering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-443
Number of pages21
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • And modelling.
  • Fracture and flow
  • Geomechanics
  • Mechanics
  • Numerical solutions
  • Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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