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Stress Wave Source Characterization: Impact, Fracture, and Sliding Friction


Rapidly varying forces, such as those associated with impact, rapid crack propagation, and fault rupture, are sources of stress waves which propagate through a solid body. This dissertation investigates how properties of a stress wave source can be identified or constrained using measurements recorded at an array of sensor sites located far from the source. This methodology is often called the method of acoustic emission and is useful for structural health monitoring and the noninvasive study of material behavior such as friction and fracture. In this dissertation, laboratory measurements of 1-300 mm wavelength stress waves are obtained by means of piezoelectric sensors which detect high frequency (10 kHz- 3MHz) motions of a specimen's surface, picometers to nanometers in amplitude. Then, stress wave source characterization techniques are used to study ball impact, drying shrinkage cracking in concrete, and the micromechanics of stick-slip friction of Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and rock/rock interfaces.

In order to quantitatively relate recorded signals obtained with an array of sensors to a particular stress wave source, wave propagation effects and sensor distortions must be accounted for. This is achieved by modeling the physics of wave propagation and transduction as linear transfer functions. Wave propagation effects are precisely modeled by an elastodynamic Green's function, sensor distortion is characterized by an instrument response function, and the stress wave source is represented with a force moment tensor. These transfer function models are verified though calibration experiments which employ two different mechanical calibration sources: ball impact and glass capillary fracture. The suitability of the ball impact source model, based on Hertzian contact theory, is experimentally validated for small (~1 mm) balls impacting massive plates composed of four different materials: aluminum, steel, glass, and PMMA.

Using this transfer function approach and the two mechanical calibration sources, four types of piezoelectric sensors were calibrated: three commercially available sensors and the Glaser-type conical piezoelectric sensor, which was developed in the Glaser laboratory. The distorting effects of each sensor are modeled using autoregressive-moving average (ARMA) models, and because vital phase information is robustly incorporated into these models, they are useful for simulating or removing sensor-induced distortions, so that a displacement time history can be retrieved from recorded signals. The Glaser-type sensor was found to be very well modeled as a unidirectional displacement sensor which detects stress wave disturbances down to about 1 picometer in amplitude.

Finally, the merits of a fully calibrated experimental system are demonstrated in a study of stress wave sources arising from sliding friction, and the relationship between those sources and earthquakes. A laboratory friction apparatus was built for this work which allows the micro-mechanisms of friction to be studied with stress wave analysis. Using an array of 14 Glaser-type sensors, and precise models of wave propagation effects and the sensor distortions, the physical origins of the stress wave sources are explored. Force-time functions and focal mechanisms are determined for discrete events found amid the "noise" of friction. These localized events are interpreted to be the rupture of micrometer-sized contacts, known as asperities. By comparing stress wave sources from stick-slip experiments on plastic/plastic and rock/rock interfaces, systematic differences were found. The rock interface produces very rapid (<1 microsecond) implosive forces indicative of brittle asperity failure and fault gouge formation, while rupture on the plastic interface releases only shear force and produces a source more similar to earthquakes commonly recorded in the field. The difference between the mechanisms is attributed to the vast differences in the hardness and melting temperatures of the two materials, which affect the distribution of asperities as well as their failure behavior. With proper scaling, the strong link between material properties and laboratory earthquakes will aid in our understanding of fault mechanics and the generation of earthquakes and seismic tremor.

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