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Numerical Modeling Describing the Effects of Heterogeneous Distributions of Asperities on the Quasi-static Evolution of Frictional Slip


A better understanding of how slip accumulates along faults and its relation to the breakdown of shear stress is beneficial to many engineering disciplines, such as, hydraulic fracture and understanding induced seismicity (among others). Asperities forming along a preexisting fault resist the relative motion of the two sides of the interface and occur due to the interaction of the surface topographies. Here, we employ a finite element model to simulate circular partial slip asperities along a nominally flat frictional interface. Shear behavior of our partial slip asperity model closely matched the theory described by Cattaneo. The asperity model was employed to simulate a small section of an experimental fault formed between two bodies of polymethyl methacrylate, which consisted of multiple asperities whose location and sizes were directly measured using a pressure sensitive film. The quasi-static shear behavior of the interface was modeled for cyclical loading conditions, and the frictional dissipation (hysteresis) was normal stress dependent. We further our understanding by synthetically modeling lognormal size distributions of asperities that were randomly distributed in space. Synthetic distributions conserved the real contact area and aspects of the size distributions from the experimental case, allowing us to compare the constitutive behaviors based solely on spacing effects. Traction-slip behavior of the experimental interface appears to be considerably affected by spatial clustering of asperities that was not present in the randomly spaced, synthetic asperity distributions. Estimates of bulk interfacial shear stiffness were determined from the constitutive traction-slip behavior and were comparable to the theoretical estimates of multi-contact interfaces with non-interacting asperities.

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