Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 441–461 | Cite as

Experimental Study on the Water-Induced Weakening of Calcarenites

  • Matteo Oryem Ciantia
  • Riccardo Castellanza
  • Claudio di Prisco
Original Paper


Carbonatic rocks, such as calcarenites, are very often subject to damage processes, causing a progressive degradation of their mechanical properties. In nature, in some cases, this phenomenon can cause the collapse of cliffs and underground cavities, with dangerous consequences for the anthropic environment. In this paper, the results of an experimental campaign, intended to both clarify and quantify the mechanical consequences of this process, are illustrated. To achieve such a goal, suitable physical and geotechnical indices are introduced and different time scales to describe the physical/chemical reactions induced by the water saturation of the material are taken into consideration. In particular, the authors have observed: (1) a short-term marked and instantaneous reduction in strength when water fills the pores of the rock; (2) a long-term dissolution; and (3) a progressive chemically induced reduction in the grain size. To describe the degradation processes induced by the material water saturation, owing to the complexity of the hydro-chemo-mechanical phenomena taking place within the material, suitably designed tests under controlled “weathering” conditions were also performed and discussed.


Rocks Calcarenite Weathering Hydro-chemo-mechanical experimental tests Hydro-chemo-mechanical coupling 



Short-term debonding


Long-term debonding


Grain dissolution process


Unconfined compression test


Brazilian test


Oedometric compression test


Weathering testing device


Weathering testing device under oedometric conditions


Weathering testing device under unconfined compression conditions


Unconfined compression strength

List of symbols


Current structure area


Initial structure area


Young’s modulus


Radial strain


Axial strain


Total calcite mass


Calcite mass in the solid phase


Calcite mass in the fluid phase


Grain calcite mass


Diagenetic bonds mass


Total powder mass


Portion of powder mass suspended in water


Portion of powder mass forming the depositional bonds


Structure mass, the solid component of material that transmits stresses across the material


Initial total powder mass




Void ratio


Dry unit weight


Saturated unit weight




Suction during UC tests


Mean effective stress


Deviatoric stress


Radial stress


Axial stress


Initial peak tensile stress in saturated conditions


Tensile peak stress in saturated conditions of the weathered calcarenite


Initial peak compressive stress in saturated conditions


Unconfined peak compressive stress in saturated conditions of the weathered calcarenite


Initial oedometric peak compressive stress in saturated conditions


Oedometric peak compressive stress in saturated conditions of the weathered calcarenite


Degree of saturation


Degree of saturation during UC tests


Minimum degree of saturation necessary to suspend all the powder mass in the structure


Compressive stress


Tensile stress


Peak compressive stress


Peak tensile stress


Dissolution reaction progress variable


Value of the dissolution reaction progress variable when all diagenetic bonds are assumed to be dissolved


STD progress variable


Air pressure


Water pressure



The authors wish to thank Professor Tomasz Hueckel and Professor Claudio Tamagnini for the many fruitful discussions concerning the experiments. M. O. Ciantia is particularly grateful to Professor Roberto Nova for his passion and enthusiasm devoted to scientific investigation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matteo Oryem Ciantia
    • 1
  • Riccardo Castellanza
    • 2
  • Claudio di Prisco
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento de Ingeniería del TerrenoUniversidad Politècnica de Cataluna (UPC)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Università degli studi Milano BicoccaMilanItaly
  3. 3.Politecnico di MilanoMilanItaly

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