Forensic excavation of rock masses: a technique to investigate discontinuity persistence

Shang, J. , Hencher, S.R., West, L.J. and Handley, K. (2017) Forensic excavation of rock masses: a technique to investigate discontinuity persistence. Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering, 50(11), pp. 2911-2928. (doi: 10.1007/s00603-017-1290-3)

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True persistence of rock discontinuities (areas with insignificant tensile strength) is an important factor controlling the engineering behaviour of fractured rock masses, but is extremely difficult to quantify using current geological survey methodologies, even where there is good rock exposure. Trace length as measured in the field or using remote measurement devices is actually only broadly indicative of persistence for rock engineering practice and numerical modelling. Visible traces of discontinuities are treated as if they were open fractures within rock mass classifications, despite many such traces being non-persistent and actually retaining considerable strength. The common assumption of 100% persistence, based on trace length, is generally extremely conservative in terms of strength and stiffness, but not always so and may lead to a wrong prediction of failure mechanism or of excavatability. Assuming full persistence would give hopelessly incorrect predictions of hydraulic conductivity. A new technique termed forensic excavation of rock masses is introduced, as a procedure for directly investigating discontinuity persistence. This technique involves non-explosive excavation of rock masses by injecting an expansive chemical splitter along incipient discontinuities. On expansion, the splitter causes the incipient traces to open as true joints. Experiments are described in which near-planar rock discontinuities, through siltstone and sandstone, were opened up by injecting the splitter into holes drilled along the lines of visible traces of the discontinuities in the laboratory and in the field. Once exposed the surfaces were examined to investigate the pre-existing persistence characteristics of the incipient discontinuities. One conclusion from this study is that visible trace length of a discontinuity can be a poor indicator of true persistence (defined for a fracture area with negligible tensile strength). An observation from this series of experiments was that freshly failed surfaces through pre-existing rock bridges were relatively rough compared to sections of pre-existing weaker areas of geologically developed (though still incipient) discontinuities. Fractographic features such as hackle and rib marks were typical of the freshly broken rock bridges, whereas opened-up areas of incipient discontinuity were smoother. Schmidt hammer rebound values were generally higher for the rock bridge areas, probably reflecting their lower degree of chemical and physical weathering.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Shang, Dr Junlong
Authors: Shang, J., Hencher, S.R., West, L.J., and Handley, K.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Infrastructure and Environment
Journal Name:Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering
ISSN (Online):1434-453X
Published Online:08 August 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 The Authors
First Published:First published in Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering 50(11): 2911-2928
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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