Development of discontinuities in granular media
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Discontinuous planes often develop in soils; examples include shear bands, desiccation cracks, polygonal faults, and hydraulic fractures. These discontinuities affect the mechanical behavior (stiffness and strength) and transport properties of sediments (fluid migration and diffusion). Contrary to discontinuities in solid materials, granular materials such as soils are already separated at the particle scale. Therefore, the fundamental understanding of the development of discontinuities in soils must recognize their inherent granular nature and effective-stress dependent behavior. This research focuses on particle-scale mechanisms involved in contraction-driven shear failure due to mineral dissolution, desiccation cracks, and hydraulic fractures. Complementary experimental, analytical and numerical methods are used to study three cases. Contraction-driven polygonal fault formation under the seabed. Shear failure planes are often found in sediments that formed under near horizontal burial conditions. Particle-scale volume contraction due to mineral dissolution causes a decrease in the state of stress from the insitu K0-condition to the active failure Ka stress field. Shear strain localization follows in sediment with post-peak strain softening response. Desiccation cracks in saturated fine soils. The formation of desiccation cracks in soils is often interpreted in terms of tensile strength, which contradicts the cohesionless, effective stress dependent frictional behavior of fine grained soils. Experimental results monitored using high resolution time lapse photography point to a proper effective stress-dependent mechanism centered on the invasion of the air-water interface membrane. Miscible and immiscible fluid-driven fracture formation. Hydraulic fracture in granular materials cause grain separation and the development of conduits for preferential fluid flow leading to fracture formation due to the forced invasion of either immiscible or miscible fluids. Capillary, seepage, and skeletal interparticle forces define particle scale mechanisms at the fracture tip. Numerical simulations confirm that the effective stress remains in compression everywhere throughout the granular medium in the three localization mechanisms.