Determination of on Fracture Toughness of Mode I Fractures from Three-point Bending Tests at Elevated Confining Pressures
Hongwei YANG1#+, Jörg RENNER2, Michael KRAUSE3
1Sun Yat-Sen University, China, 2Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany, 3Geomecon GmbH, Germany

Fracture toughness is one of the key parameters for the characterization of brittle rock fracturing. Yet, constraints on it mainly rest on measurements performed at ambient pressure, although rock fracturing frequently occurs at elevated pressures even in geotechnical applications. To address the lack of a generally accepted evaluation procedure for tests at elevated pressure we explored the conditions for initiation and propagation of mode I fractures in samples subjected to bending at elevated pressure by numerical modelling and analytical considerations of the involved angular moments. We derived an evaluation procedure and applied it to experimental observations for specimens with either a chevron or a single-edge notch of four different rocks (a granite, a limestone, a marble and a sandstone) subjected to three-point bending at confining pressures up to 30 MPa. Two sealing methods were considered. Specimens were either varnished or jacketed by a rubber tube, differing in whether pressure is allowed to build up inside the pre-fabricated notch or not, respectively. Irrespective of notch geometry and sealing method, the determined toughness values increase significantly with confining pressure. The apparent toughness determined for jacketed specimens is, however, larger than that for varnished specimens, for which toughness seems to reach a plateau with increasing pressure. The similarity of the pressure dependence of the toughness determined for varnished, i.e., uniformly pressurized, samples with that of other physical properties suggests that it is controlled by the closure of pre-existing micro-cracks; the absence of pressure dependence beyond some tens of MPa suggests that non-linearity effects may not be as severe at depths beyond a few kilometres as previously discussed. Our study points to the necessity of resolving numerical issues associated with compressed fractures and of further improving experimental facilities for the determination of fracture toughness at elevated pressure.