Acta Geotechnica

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 31–54 | Cite as

Characterization of the effect of normal load on the discontinuity morphology in direct shear specimens using X-ray micro-CT

  • Bryan S. A. Tatone
  • Giovanni Grasselli
Research Paper


Discontinuities in brittle geomaterials, including concrete and rock, represent localized zones of weakness and enhanced hydraulic transmissivity that often control the hydromechanical behavior of the medium. The shearing of discontinuities and the resulting morphological changes can significantly alter this behavior. In this work, a procedure is developed to characterize sheared discontinuity replicas as a function of the applied normal load using X-ray micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) imagery. A specimen design and testing procedure that facilitates CT scanning is presented along with an image processing procedure to quantify the morphological changes in the specimens. Subsequently, the results of direct shear testing and image-based measurements of mean fracture aperture, surface area, median effective aperture, and the preferential orientation of fracture void space are presented and discussed. Application of the procedure developed herein yields characteristics of the morphology of sheared discontinuities that were previously not possible to obtain or that were time consuming to collect with destructive sectioning methods.


Direct shear Discontinuity characterization Micro-CT 



This work has been supported through NSERC Discovery Grant 341275 and CFI-LOF Grant 18285.


  1. 1.
    Alshibli K, Reed AH (eds) (2010) Advances in computed tomography for geomaterials: GeoX 2010. ISTE, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Auradou H, Drazer G, Boschan A, Hulin JP, Koplik J (2006) Flow channeling in a single fracture induced by shear displacement. Geothermics 35(5–6):576–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Auradou H, Drazer G, Hulin JP, Koplik J (2005) Permeability anisotropy induced by the shear displacement of rough fracture walls. Water Resour Res 41(9):W09423Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Başağaoğlu H, Meakin P, Succi S, Redden GR, Ginn TR (2008) Two-dimensional lattice Boltzmann simulation of colloid migration in rough-walled narrow flow channels. Phys Rev E 77(3):031405-1–031405-10Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bandis S, Lumsden AC, Barton NR (1981) Experimental studies of scale effects on the shear behaviour of rock joints. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci Geomech Abstr 18(1):1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Barton NR (1973) Review of a new shear-strength criterion for rock joints. Eng Geol 7(4):287–332CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Barton NR, Bandis S (1990) Review of predictive capabilities of JRC-JCS model in engineering practice. In: Rock joints. Proceedings of the international symposium on rock joints. A. A. Balkema, Loen, Norway, pp 603–610Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Barton NR, Bandis S, Bakhtar K (1985) Strength, deformation and conductivity coupling of rock joints. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci Geomech Abstr 22(3):121–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Berkowitz B (2002) Characterizing flow and transport in fractured geological media: a review. Adv Water Resour 25(8–12):861–884CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Boulon MJ, Selvadurai APS, Benjelloun H, Feuga B (1993) Influence of rock joint degradation on hydraulic conductivity. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci Geomech Abstr 30(7):1311–1317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Boutt DF, Grasselli G, Fredrich JT, Cook BK, Williams JR (2006) Trapping zones: the effect of fracture roughness on the directional anisotropy of fluid flow and colloid transport in a single fracture. Geophys Res Lett 33(21):L21402–L21406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Brown SR (1987) Fluid flow through rock joints: the effect of surface roughness. J Geophys Res 92(B2):1337–1347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Brown SR, Scholz CH (1985) Broad bandwidth study of the topography of natural rock surfaces. J Geophys Res Solid Earth Planets 90(B14):2575–2582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Buzug T (2008) Computed tomography: from photon statistics to modern cone-beam CT. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Christe P, Turberg P, Labiouse V, Meuli R, Parriaux A (2011) An X-ray computed tomography-based index to characterize the quality of cataclastic carbonate rock samples. Eng Geol 117(34):180–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Christe PG (2009) Geological characterization of cataclastic rock samples using medical X-ray computerized tomography—towards a better geotechnical description. Ph.D. thesis, EPFLGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Cnudde V, Boone M, Dewanckele J, Dierick M, Van Hoorebeke L, Jacobs P (2011) 3D characterization of sandstone by means of X-ray computed tomography. Geosphere 7(1):54–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Deere DU, Miller RP (1966) Engineering classification and index properties for intact rocks. Tech Rep AFWL-TR-65-116, U.S. Air Force Weapons Laboratory Kirtland Air Force Base, New MexicoGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Desrues J, Viggiani G, Besuelle P (eds) (2006) Advances in X-ray tomography for geomaterials: Geox 2006. ISTE, LondonGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Doube M, Klosowski MM, Arganda-Carreras I, Cordelires FP, Dougherty RP, Jackson JS, Schmid B, Hutchinson JR, Shefelbine SJ (2010) BoneJ: free and extensible bone image analysis in ImageJ. Bone 47(6):1076–1079CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Du Y, Aydin A (1995) Shear fracture patterns and connectivity at geometric complexities along strike-slip faults. J Geophys Res 100(B9):18093–18102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Eker E, Akin S (2006) Lattice Boltzmann simulation of fluid flow in synthetic fractures. Transp Porous Media 65(3):363–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Fishman YA (1990) Failure mechanism and shear strength of joint wall asperities. In: Barton N, Stephansson O (eds) Rock Joints. Proceedings of the international symposium on rock joints. A. A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Leon, Norway, pp 627–633Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gale JE (1987) Comparison of coupled fracture deformation and fluid flow models with direct measurement of fracture pore structure and stress-flow properties. In: Proceedings of the 28th US rock mechanics symposium. A. A. Balkema, Brookfield, VT, pp 1213–1222Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Gentier S, Billaux D, Vliet L (1989) Laboratory testing of the voids of a fracture. Rock Mech Rock Eng 22(2):149–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Gercek H (2007) Poisson’s ratio values for rocks. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 44(1):1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Ghazvinian AH, Azinfar MJ (2012) Importance of tensile strength on the shear behavior of discontinuities. Rock Mech Rock Eng 45(3):349–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Glasbey CA (1993) An analysis of histogram-based thresholding algorithms. CVGIP Graph Models Image Process 55(6):532–537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Grasselli G, Egger P (2003) Constitutive law for the shear strength of rock joints based on three-dimensional surface parameters. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 40(1):25–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Haberfield CM, Johnston IW (1994) A mechanistically-based model for rough rock joints. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci Geomech Abstr 31(4):279–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Hakami E, Larsson E (1996) Aperture measurements and flow experiments on a single natural fracture. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci Geomech Abstr 33(4):395–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Hans J, Boulon M (2003) A new device for investigating the hydro-mechanical properties of rock joints. Int J Numer Anal Methods Geomech 27(6):513–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Hoek E, Kaiser PK, Bawden WF (1995) Support of underground excavations. A. A. Balkema, RotterdamGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Hseih J (2009) Computed tomography—principles, design, artifacts and recent advances. SPIE Press, BellinghamGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Huang LK, Wang MJJ (1995) Image thresholding by minimizing the measures of fuzziness. Pattern Recogn 28(1):41–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Huang TH, Chang CS, Chao CY (2002) Experimental and mathematical modeling for fracture of rock joint with regular asperities. Eng Fract Mech 69(17):1977–1996CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Hudson JA, Harrison JP (2000) Engineering rock mechanics. Elsevier, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Iwai K (1976) Fundamental studies of the fluid flow through a single fracture. Ph.D. thesis, University of California, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Jaeger JC (1971) Friction of rocks and stability of rock slopes. Geotechnique 21(2):97–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Jafari MK, Amini Hosseini K (2003) Evaluation of shear strength of rock joints subjected to cyclic loading. Soil Dyn Earthq Eng 23(7):619–630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Johns RA, Steude JS, Castanier LM, Roberts PV (1993) Nondestructive measurements of fracture aperture in crystalline rock cores using X-ray computed tomography. J Geophys Res 98(B2):1889–1900CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Kak AC, Slaney M (1987) Principles of computerized tomographic imaging. IEEE Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Karpyn ZT, Alajmi A, Radaelli F, Halleck PM, Grader AS (2009) X-ray CT and hydraulic evidence for a relationship between fracture conductivity and adjacent matrix porosity. Eng Geol 103(3–4):139–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Ketcham RA, Carlson WD (2001) Acquisition, optimization and interpretation of X-ray computed tomographic imagery: applications to the geosciences. Comput Geosci 27(4):381–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Ketcham RA, Slottke DT, Sharp JM (2010) Three-dimensional measurement of fractures in heterogeneous materials using high-resolution X-ray computed tomography. Geosphere 6(5):499–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Kulatilake PHSW, Shou G, Huang TH, Morgan RM (1995) New peak shear strength criteria for anisotropic rock joints. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci Geomech Abstr 32(7):673–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Ladanyi B, Archambault G (1970) Simulation of the shear behaviour of a jointed rock mass. In: Proceedings of the 11th symposium on rock mechanics: theory and practice. American Institute of Mining Engineers, Berkeley, CA, pp 105–125Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Lam T, Johnston I (1989) Shear behavior of regular triangular concrete/rock joints—evaluation. J Geotech Eng 115(5):728–740CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Lanaro F (2000) A random field model for surface roughness and aperture of rock fractures. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 37(8):1195–1210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Landis EN (2006) X-ray tomography as a tool for micromechanical investigations of cement and mortar. Geox 2006: advances in X-ray tomography for geomaterials. ISTE, London, pp 79–93Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Li C, Tam P (1998) An iterative algorithm for minimum cross entropy thresholding. Pattern Recogn Lett 19(8):771–776CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Long JCS, Witherspoon PA (1985) The relationship of the degree of interconnection to permeability in fracture networks. J Geophys Res 90(B4):3087–3098CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Lorensen, WE, Cline, HE (1987) Marching cubes: A high resolution 3D surface construction algorithm. In: Proceedings of the 14th annual conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques SIGGRAPH ’87. ACM, New York, NY, USA, pp 163–169. doi: 10.1145/37401.37422.
  54. 54.
    Louis L, Baud P, Wong TF (2007) Characterization of pore-space heterogeneity in sandstone by X-ray computed tomography. Geol Soc Lond Spec Publ 284(1):127–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Makurat, A, Barton, NR, Rad, NS (1990) Joint conductivity variation due to normal and shear deformation. In: Barton N, Stephansson O (eds) Rock joints. Proceedings of the international symposium on rock joints. A. A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Loen, Norway, pp 535–540Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Nasseri MHB, Rezanezhad F, Young RP (2011) Analysis of fracture damage zone in anisotropic granitic rock using 3d X-ray CT scanning techniques. Int J Fract 168(1):1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Odling NE, Gillespie P, Bourgine B, Castaing C, Chiles JP, Christensen NP, Fillion E, Genter A, Olsen C, Thrane L, Trice R, Aarseth E, Walsh JJ, Watterson J (1999) Variations in fracture system geometry and their implications for fluid flow in fractures hydrocarbon reservoirs. Petrol Geosci 5(4):373–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Olsson WA, Brown SR (1993) Hydromechanical response of a fracture undergoing compression and shear. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci Geomech Abstr 30(7):845–851CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Otani J, Obara Y (eds) (2004) X-ray CT for geomaterials: soils, concrete, rocks: Geox 2003. A. A. Balkema, LisseGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Otsu N (1979) A threshold selection method from gray-level histograms. IEEE Trans Syst Man Cybern 9(1):62–66CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Palmstrom A (2001) Measurement and characterization of rock mass jointing. In: Sharma KR, Saxena VM (eds) In-situ characterization of rocks. A. A Balkema, Rotterdam, pp 49–97Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Patton, FD (1966) Multiple modes of shear failure in rock. In: Proceeding of the1st congress of international society of rock mechanics, vol 1. Lisbon, Portugal, pp 509–513Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Pera VE, Heffer EL, Siebold H, Schütz O, Heywang-Köbrunner S, Götz L, Heinig A, Fantini S (2003) Spatial second-derivative image processing: an application to optical mammography to enhance the detection of breast tumors. J Biomed Opt 8(3):517–524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    Pereira JP, de Freitas MH (1993) Mechanisms of shear failure in artificial fractures of sandstone and their implication for models of hydromechanical coupling. Rock Mech Rock Eng 26(3):195–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Pratt WK (2007) Digital image processing: PIKS scientific inside, 4th edn. Wiley, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Pyrak-Nolte LJ, Montemagno CD, Nolte DD (1997) Volumetric imaging of aperture distributions in connected fracture networks. Geophys Res Lett 24(18):2343–2346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Pyrak-Nolte LJ, Myer L, Cook NGW, Witherspoon PA (1987) Hydraulic and mechanical properties of natural fractures in low permeability rock. In: Proceedings of the 6th international congress on rock mechanics. A. A. Balkema, Brookfireld, VT, pp 225–231Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Re F, Scavia C (1999) Determination of contact areas in rock joints by X-ray computer tomography. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 36(7):883–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. 69.
    Roerdink JB, Meijster A (2000) The watershed transform: definitions, algorithms and parallelization strategies. Fundamenta Informaticae 41(1):187–228zbMATHMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    Russ JC (2007) The image processing handbook, 5th edn. CRC Press, Boca RatonzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Shanbhag A (1994) Utilization of information measure as a means of image thresholding. CVGIP Graph Models Image Process 56(5):414–419CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  72. 72.
    Sharifzadeh M, Mitani Y, Esaki T (2008) Rock joint surfaces measurement and analysis of aperture distribution under different normal and shear loading using GIS. Rock Mech Rock Eng 41(2):299–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    Sheorey PR (1997) Empirical rock failure criteria. A. A. Balkema, RotterdamGoogle Scholar
  74. 74.
    Smith S (1997) The scientist and engineer’s guide to digital signal processing. California Technical Publishing, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  75. 75.
    Stock S (2009) Micro computed tomography. CRC Press, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  76. 76.
    Tatone BSA, Grasselli G (2012) Quantitative measurements of fracture aperture and directional roughness from rock cores. Rock Mech Rock Eng 45(4):619–629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. 77.
    Tsang YW (1984) The effect of tortuosity on fluid flow through a single fracture. Water Resour Res 20(9):1209–1215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. 78.
    Tsang YW, Tsang CF (1989) Flow channeling in a single fracture as a two-dimensional strongly heterogeneous permeable medium. Water Resour Res 25(9):2076–2080CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. 79.
    Vervoot M, Wevers M, Swennen R, Roels S, Van Geet M, Sellars (2004) Recent advances of X-Ray CT and its application for rock material. In: Otani J, Obara Y (eds) X-ray CT for geomaterials; soils, concrete, rocks. A. A. Balkema, LisseGoogle Scholar
  80. 80.
    Vilarrasa V, Koyama T, Neretnieks I, Jing L (2011) Shear-induced flow channels in a single rock fracture and their effect on solute transport. Transp Porous Media 87(2):503–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. 81.
    Vincent L (1991) Watersheds in digital spaces: An efficient algorithm based on immersion simulations. IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence 13(6):583–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. 82.
    Yeo IW, de Freitas MH, Zimmerman RW (1998) Effect of shear displacement on the aperture and permeability of a rock fracture. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci 35(8):1051–1070CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. 83.
    Zandomeneghi D, Voltolini M, Mancini L, Brun F, Dreossi D, Polacci M (2010) Quantitative analysis of X-ray microtomography images of geomaterials: application to volcanic rocks. Geosphere 6(6):793–804CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations