Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering

, Volume 51, Issue 9, pp 2957–2964 | Cite as

The Effects of High Heating Rate and High Temperature on the Rock Strength: Feasibility Study of a Thermally Assisted Drilling Method

  • Edoardo Rossi
  • Michael A. Kant
  • Claudio Madonna
  • Martin O. Saar
  • Philipp Rudolf von Rohr
Technical Note


In this paper, the feasibility of a thermally assisted drilling method is investigated. The working principle of this method is based on the weakening effect of a flame-jet to enhance the drilling performance of conventional, mechanical drilling. To investigate its effectiveness, we study rock weakening after rapid, localized flame-jet heating of Rorschach sandstone and Central Aare granite. We perform experiments on rock strength after flame treatments in comparison to oven heating, for temperatures up to 650 \(^{\circ}\)C and heating rates from 0.17 to 20 \(^{\circ}\)C/s. The material hardening, commonly observed at moderate temperatures after oven treatments, can be suppressed by flame heating the material at high heating rates. Our study highlights the influence of the heating rate on the mechanism of thermal microcracking. High heating rate, flame treatments appear to mostly induce cracks at the grain boundaries, opposed to slow oven treatments, where also a considerable number of intragranular cracks are found. Herewith, we postulate that at low heating rates, thermal expansion stresses cause the observed thermal cracking. In contrast, at higher heating rates, thermal cracking is dominated by the stress concentrations caused by high thermal gradients.


Thermally assisted drilling Thermal treatment Rock strength Thermal cracking Microcrack density Rock weakening 



Data reported in this work can be obtained from the corresponding author (Edoardo Rossi) upon request. Financial support from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy is gratefully acknowledged (Grant SI/500676-02).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ETH ZürichGeothermal Energy and GeofluidsZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.ETH ZürichInstitute of Process EngineeringZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.ETH ZürichGeological InstituteZurichSwitzerland

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