A model of damage and healing coupling halite thermo-mechanical behavior to microstructure evolution
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Creep processes in halite (salt rock) include glide, cross-slip, diffusion and dynamic recrystallization. Diffusive Mass Transfer (DMT) can result in crack rebonding, and mechanical stiffness recovery. Crack rebonding driven by DMT occurs within a few days at room temperature and low pressure. DMT is enhanced at higher temperatures, which could be beneficial for the sustainabilty of geological storage facilities in salt mines. On the one hand, visco-plastic laws relating creep microscopic processes to microstructure changes are empirical. On the other hand, theoretical models of damage and healing disconnect thermodynamic variables from their physical meaning. The proposed model enriches the framework of Continuum Damage Mechanics (CDM) with fabric descriptors. In order to infer the form of fabric tensors from microstructure observation, creep tests were carried out on granular salt under constant stress and humidity conditions. The evolution of net damage is governed by a diffusion equation, in which the characteristic time scales with the typical size of halite crystals, and the diffusion coefficient is a function of temperature. A stress path comprising a tensile loading, a compressive unloading, a creep healing stage and a reloading was simulated. Macroscopic and microscopic model predictions highlight the increased efficiency of healing with time and temperature. The model presented in this paper is expected to improve the fundamental understanding of damage and healing in rocks at both macroscopic and microscopic levels, and the long-term assessment of geological storage facilities.