Rock masses in southwest China are dominated by alternating layers of sandstone and mudstone. When exposed to natural conditions, mudstone is vulnerable to disintegration, causing the overlying sandstone to be extremely likely to collapse under the action of a load or other conditions. An effective and innovative experimental method to characterize weathering processes would contribute to collapse prevention. In this study, a customized test unit, including a model test container, a lever-loading device and a thermostat-controlled heating plate, was applied to explore the mechanism of crack development in mudstone over multiple dry-wet cycles. The crack width, vertical displacement and wetted area were measured to analyse the slaking mechanism acting during these cycles. The results show that tiny cracks appeared on the surface of the sample after heating and that the vertical displacement increased in the upward direction because of swelling of mudstone. The crack width expanded with increasing water exposure, but after the water infiltrated the surface of the sample, the crack width decreased. The external surface of the sample was gradually infiltrated in the second dry-wet cycle, and the infiltration area increased continually. The infiltrating speed grew progressively faster with each cycle, and the number and size of internal cracks monotonically increased. The sample fractured as a result of crack extension. These results have theoretical significance regarding the ground collapse of alternating layers of sandstone and mudstone.
Mudstone Crack development Dry-wet cycles Temperature-induced stress Fluid effects
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The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Chongqing Research Program of Basic Research and Frontier Technology (No. cstc2015jcyjBX0073) and the science and technology project of Land Resources and Real Estate Management Bureau of Chongqing Government (No. CQGT-KJ-2014052).
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