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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2019-59
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2019-59
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 05 Apr 2019

Research article | 05 Apr 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Solid Earth (SE).

What happens to Fracture Energy in Brittle Fracture? Revisiting the Griffith Assumption

Timothy R. H. Davies1, Maurice J. McSaveney2, and Natalya V. Reznichenko1 Timothy R. H. Davies et al.
  • 1Department of Geological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
  • 2GNS Science Ltd, P.O. Box 30368 Lower Hutt, New Zealand

Abstract. Laboratory data from two independent sources demonstrate that brittle failure of Pyrex glass can generate enough new surface area to contradict a long-standing assumption: that all the energy involved in creating new rock surface area in brittle material is taken up by the newly-created surfaces as surface potential energy, and is thus not available to do further work. We resolve this contradiction by suggesting, in line with published empirical data, that only a small proportion of the energy used to extend a crack is lost to surface potential energy, while the rest is radiated from the crack-tip through the surrounding material in the form of elastic body-wave energy. This transient energy is able to contribute to further crack enlargement. This result does not affect the validity of linear elastic fracture mechanics, and only becomes significant in practical terms when large numbers of very fine fragments are created by brittle fracture, for example in rock-avalanche motion and earthquake rupture, and are identified in particle-size distributions. In such situations our result is very significant to understanding fracture process energetics.

Timothy R. H. Davies et al.
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Timothy R. H. Davies et al.
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Short summary
Griffith (1921) assumed that energy used to create new surface area by breaking intact rock immediately becomes surface energy which is not available for further breakage. Our lab data disprove this assumption; we created much more new surface area, mostly on ultra-fine fragments, than the energy involved should allow. As technology allows ever smaller fragments to be measured, continued use of the Griffith assumption will lead to incorrect energy budgets for earthquakes and rock avalanches.
Griffith (1921) assumed that energy used to create new surface area by breaking intact rock...
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