Understanding progressive rock failure and associated seismicity using ultrasonic tomography and numerical simulation

Tai Ming He, Qi Zhao, Johnson Ha, Kaiwen Xia, Giovanni Grasselli

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Monitoring the stability of underground rock excavation zones, such as tunnels and underground mines, is critical to their operational safety. The stability of these structures is related to the stress redistribution introduced by the excavation process and disturbance during the operation. Therefore, the characteristics of progressive rock failure behaviour at different stress conditions must be investigated. In this study, we address this problem using a laboratory experiment, coupled with ultrasonic tomography (UT) and numerical simulation. A time-lapse two-dimensional (2D) UT observation was conducted on a granite slab under uniaxial compression. This test was then reproduced numerically by the combined finite-discrete element method (FDEM). This innovative combination of technologies depicted the entire deformation and failure processes at macroscopic and microscopic scales. Quantitative assessments of the results suggested six precursory behaviours indicating the catastrophic failure of the rock: (1) decrease of the average wave velocity perpendicular to the loading direction, (2) increase of the heterogeneity and anisotropy of wave velocity, (3) exponential increase of seismic rate, (4) spatial localization of damage onto the failure plane, (5) increase of the dominance of shear failure, and (6) slight recovery of b-value, followed by a significant drop. An integrated monitoring and analysis of these indicators, accompanied by carefully calibrated numerical simulations, may provide vital information regarding the stability of underground structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-34
Number of pages9
JournalTunnelling and Underground Space Technology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • AE
  • b-value
  • FDEM
  • Precursors
  • Ultrasonic tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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