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Numerical Simulations and Validation of Contact Mechanics in a Granodiorite Fracture

: Kling, T.; Vogler, D.; Pastewka, L.; Amann, F.; Blum, P.


Rock mechanics and rock engineering 51 (2018), S.2805-2824
ISSN: 0723-2632 (Print)
ISSN: 1434-453X (Online)
Fraunhofer IWM ()

Numerous rock engineering applications require a reliable estimation of fracture permeabilities to predict fluid flow and transport processes. Since measurements of fracture properties at great depth are extremely elaborate, representative fracture geometries typically are obtained from outcrops or core drillings. Thus, physically valid numerical approaches are required to compute the actual fracture geometries under in situ stress conditions. Hence, the objective of this study is the validation of a fast Fourier transform (FFT)-based numerical approach for a circular granodiorite fracture considering stress-dependent normal closure. The numerical approach employs both purely elastic and elastic–plastic contact deformation models, which are based on high-resolution fracture scans and representative mechanical properties, which were measured in laboratory experiments. The numerical approaches are validated by comparing the simulated results with uniaxial laboratory tests. The normal stresses applied in the axial direction of the cylindrical specimen vary between 0.25 and 10 MPa. The simulations indicate the best performance for the elastic–plastic model, which fits well with experimentally derived normal closure data (root-mean-squared error = 9 µm). The validity of the elastic–plastic model is emphasized by a more realistic reproduction of aperture distributions, local stresses and contact areas along the fracture. Although there are differences in simulated closure for the elastic and elastic–plastic models, only slight differences in the resulting aperture distributions are observed. In contrast to alternative interpenetration models or analytical models such as the Barton–Bandis models and the “exponential repulsion model”, the numerical simulations reproduce heterogeneous local closure as well as low-contact areas (< 2%) even at high normal stresses (10 MPa), which coincides with findings of former experimental studies. Additionally, a relative hardness value of 0.14 for granitic rocks, which defines the general resistance to non-elastic deformation of the contacts, is introduced and successfully applied for the elastic–plastic model.