An unload-induced direct-shear model for granular gouge friction in rock discontinuities
The experimental study introduces an unload-induced direct-shear model to investigate the frictional slip of a layer of simulated granular gouges induced by the combination of a decreasing normal stress and a constant shear stress. A frictional equilibrium state of the gouge layer is initially established under fixed normal and shear stresses. The normal stress is proposed to decrease at a constant unloading rate to induce the frictional slip of the gouge layer, and the shear stress is proposed to keep a constant value during the test. A displacement meter and load cells synchronously measure the slip displacement and the applied normal and shear stresses, respectively. The normal and shear stresses sharply decrease with the frictional slip, owing to damage of gouge contacts. The frictional slip is then gradually arrested with new formation of gouge contacts. A greater initial shear stress induces larger normal and shear stress reductions and a smaller slip displacement. The strain energy stored in the discontinuous system before the frictional slip is found to affect the slip displacement. The advantages and the limitations of this model are discussed at the end.