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Influence of Water Content on Mechanical Properties of Rock in Both Saturation and Drying Processes


Water content has a pronounced influence on the properties of rock materials, which is responsible for many rock engineering hazards, such as landslides and karst collapse. Meanwhile, water injection is also used for the prevention of some engineering disasters like rock-bursts. To comprehensively investigate the effect of water content on mechanical properties of rocks, laboratory tests were carried out on sandstone specimens with different water contents in both saturation and drying processes. The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance technique was applied to study the water distribution in specimens with variation of water contents. The servo-controlled rock mechanics testing machine and Split Hopkinson Pressure Bar technique were used to conduct both compressive and tensile tests on sandstone specimens with different water contents. From the laboratory tests, reductions of the compressive and tensile strength of sandstone under static and dynamic states in different saturation processes were observed. In the drying process, all of the saturated specimens could basically regain their mechanical properties and recover its strength as in the dry state. However, for partially saturated specimens in the saturation and drying processes, the tensile strength of specimens with the same water content was different, which could be related to different water distributions in specimens.

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Nuclear magnetic resonance


Radio frequency


Uni-axial compressive strength


X-ray diffraction


Material test system


Linear variant differential transducer


Split Hopkinson pressure bar


International Society for Rock Mechanics

\(\omega_{\text{w}}\) :

Water content of the specimen (%)

\(m_{\text{w}}\) :

Wet mass of the specimen (g)

\(m_{\text{d}}\) :

Dry mass of the specimen (g)

\(\sigma_{\text{t}}\) :

Tensile strength of the specimen (MPa)

P m :

Maximum value of loading force (kN)

D :

Diameter of the specimen (mm)

L s :

Length of the specimen (mm)

\(\sigma_{\text{c}}\) :

Compressive strength of the specimen (MPa)

\(\varepsilon_{\text{f}}\) :

Failure strain of the specimen under uni-axial compression (%)

\(E\) :

Elastic modulus of the specimen (GPa)

\(R^{2}\) :

Coefficient of correlation

P 1 :

Force between the specimen and input bar (kN)

P 2 :

Force between the specimen and output bar (kN)

\(\varepsilon_{\text{I}}\) :

Signal on the incident bar

\(\varepsilon_{\text{R}}\) :

Signal on the reflected bar

\(\varepsilon_{\text{T}}\) :

Signal on the transmitted bar

\(A_{\text{e}}\) :

Cross sectional area of elastic bars (mm2)

\(A_{\text{s}}\) :

Cross sectional area of the specimen (mm2)

\(C_{\text{e}}\) :

Wave propagation velocity in the specimen (km/s)

\(E_{\text{e}}\) :

Young’s modulus of elastic bars (GPa)


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The authors acknowledge the financial support from both the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51322403, 51274254) and National Basic Research Program of China (2015CB060200).

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Correspondence to Zilong Zhou.

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Zhou, Z., Cai, X., Cao, W. et al. Influence of Water Content on Mechanical Properties of Rock in Both Saturation and Drying Processes. Rock Mech Rock Eng 49, 3009–3025 (2016).

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  • Static rock property
  • Rock dynamics
  • Water content
  • Saturation process
  • Drying process