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An assessment of a technique for determining the tensile strength of rock

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1965 Br. J. Appl. Phys. 16 259
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1965 , VO L. 16

An assessment of a technique for determining the

tensile strength of rock
National Coal Board , Minlng Research Establishrnent , Isleworth , Middlesex
MS. received 29th October 1963 , in revised form 20th October 1964
Abstract. The reliab i1i ty of the diametrical compression of a disk with a small central
hole as a technique for determining the tensiJe strength of rock is described. Experiments on rock and pJaster show that failure occurs in tension and that the tensile
strength is dependent upon the disk dimensions. Some justification is given for the
application of eJasticity theory to rock. 1t is suggested that the disk dimensions
should be standardized if the test is to be used as a routine method of detrmining
the tensile strength of rock.
1. Introduction
Three techniques for determining the tensile strength of britt1e materials have been
described by Berenbaum and Brodie (1959 a). These were the bending beam test , an
indentation test and a test in which a solid disk is loaded diametrically. The former two
tests are of limited use for rock because it is virtually impossible to obtain specimens
suitable for these tests from blocks of mudstones and shales. Such rocks comprise the
bulk of the sedimentary rocks. The diametrical compression of a solid disk is now in
wide use for determining the tensile strength of rock. However the results obtained using
this technique are suspect because wedge shaped fractures frequently form close to the
loading platens. These fractures may occur prior to tensile failur along the loaded
diameter. For some rocks , notably shales , failure does not even occur along the loaded
diameter, instead the disk shears along a plane inclined to the loaded diameter. Because
of the limited application of these techniqus an altrnative technique was developed to
determin the tensile strength of rock. The technique is the diametrical compression of a
circular disk with a small central hole. An assessment of this technique as a means of
determining the tensile strength of rock is described in the present paper. The feasibility
of using the technique was first suggested by Ripperger and Davids (1946).

2. The stresses in a disk with a central hole subjected to a diametrical load

A number of approximate solutions have been obtained for the stresses in a ring by
assuming that the cross-sectional dimensions of the ring are small compared with the mean
radius. A comparison of the stresss obtained from the various solutions has ben given
by Leeman (1 956).
The gneral form of the exact solution for the stresses in a plate bounded by two con.
centric circles was first outlined by Timpe (F i1on 1924). From the gneral form of the stress
function obtained by Timpe , F i10n (1 924) worked out the solution for the gnral case
under any given edge stresses.
Th stresses in a ring loaded diametrically are derived in the usual way as
1 2(X) , 1 (X)

-2 e 2
1 (X)
-----1 r r ae

"= ,--;;~



= (X)

X is the stress function assumed by Filon (1924). The constants in the above


D. W. Hobbs

expressions are obtained by comparing these expressions with the Founr expansion of
the boundary strss conditions. The boundary conditions for a ring thickness t , internal
radius b , external radius a, su ected to diametricalloads Wat the points corresponding to
B=--t77' are

rBa = rBb = rrb = 0

intherange - <B< +




elsewhere in the range 0 8 277' and

= 0



The solution for the tangential stress


as fo lIowst

- (1-bv~2\ r~2~2 + L> {(n +


"'^ = ~:
W (1
l ~
1 - q2

Be is


+ 1) B r- n - 2 +






1)(n + 2)A r

- 1)(n - 2)

D r-}

cos nB (l)

where q = bfa and a r b

An =~1 - q2)a~-~1 - q2-2) na

n-~a n
2(n + 1) QQ
B ,,= -~1 - q2)q2-2a I (1 - q2-2) q2n nan
n--~a-~ T 2(n+ 1) Q a-b- 2
Cn = (1_--=- q2~) .a + ~~ _ q2-2) a
- n-2
T 2(n - 1) Qa-2

D,,= -(1 n=

q2) q2a +~1 - q2+ q2-2na

2Qn a
2(n - 1) Q a-

= (1 - q2n)2 _

n 2 q2-2

(1 _ q2)2



= [ (- 1)%/2

n even

= 0

n odd.

When q is small the tangential stress along the loaded diameter,

powers greater than 2, is, from equation (1), approximately given by

W 1.
^ / _
24r2 a
BB = -; 11 + q217_ - 1


/a 4

+ q41 \r'


= 77'


1 ~.


Thus for small values of q there is a rapid approach to the solid disk solution
increases (see fgure 1).
When r = b equation (1) becomes , on simplifying,

and when q



1 - q2J

77' at

"' i -

1)122nq-2(1 _


q2)(1 _ q2) cos nB

(1 - q2n)2 - n2q2n-2(1 -



Wf at as r

r=h = ~ f--=--


o equation (3) becomes

BBr=b = -

(2 +

8 cos 2B).


Thus the tangential stress has its maximum compressive value at B = 0 and 77', and its
maximum tensile value at B = 7r. The relationships between the maximum com-

t Tensile stresses are taken to be positive.

An assessment of a technique for determining the tensile of rock




tensile slre ss

A Maximum compressive slress





~ 4
t2 3

c; 2








Figure 1. Relationship between the tangentiaI stress and the distance a10ng the
Ioaded diameter.

Ratio 01 internal 10 external diameler


Figure 2. The variation of the maximum

tens i1e and compressive stresses with the ratio
of the internaI to the externa1 diameter using
Filon's ana1ysis.

pressive and tensile stresses obtained from equation (3) and q, the ratio of the interna1 to
the externa1 radius , are shown in figure 2.
The maximum tensile stress P and the maximum compressive stress Q are, from equation
3, approximately given by


(6 + 38q2)



Q= (10 + 10


From the foregoing paragraphs it can be seen that the maximum tensile stress in a disk
with a centra1 ho1e is at 1east 6 times as great as the maximum tensile stress in a solid disk
su ected to the same diametrical 10ad. Thus the ratio of the maximum shear stress to
the maximum tensi1e stress in a. disk with a small central hole is at most one-sixth of the
similar ratio for a solid disk.
The stress distributions determined by theoretical elasticity are only applicable to
materials which are homogeneous , isotropic, and elastic. However , the stresses in rock
are probably close to the stresses obtained by analytical methods since rocks behave for the
most part elastically up to the point of fracture and show little anisotr:opy in their elastic
moduli. In addition Berenbaum and Brodie (1959 b) have shown that the. stresses in
photoelastic models and th results obtained for coal are in .reasonable agreemen t. Some
further evidence which justifies the application of theoretical elasticity to rock is given in g5.


D. W. Hobbs

3. The experimental method

Disks of rock were prepared by frst coring out cy1inders from rough b10cks of rock.
The cy1inders wre then clampd in a slotted jig and disks with the required thickness
were obtained by cutting down appropriate1y p1aced 810ts with a diamond cutting whee l.
Durium tip drills were used to cut the disk ho1es and precautions were taken to ensure
that the drill tip did not overheat (nam1y the drill was frequent1y withdrawn so that the
drill tip temperature upon withdrawal did not exceed roughly 50 0 c).
1n order to investigate the technique of determining tensile strength by crushing disks
with a central hole , many of the exploratory tests were carried out on a brittle plaster.
The technique usd for preparing the brittle plaster has been describd by Berenbaum and
Brodie (1959 a) and is briefiy as follows: disks were moulded from a mix containing 100
parts of plastr to 55 parts of water by weight and were allowed to set for ha1f an hour
before being trimmed to shape. The disks were then dried by baking them at 50 0 c for
18 hours. The central hole in the disk was generally drilled after baking.
The disks were crushed at opposite ends of a chosen diameter between the p1atens of an
Avery press , and the 10ad at fracture was measurd.
1n this form of test , the greatest tensi1e stress in the material occurs at the surface of the
centra1 ho1e. The results obtained will therfore be sensitive to the condition ofthe surface
1ayer of the rock which may have been altered by the drilling process. However, the only
physical changes which occur in rocks , other than coa1 , at 10w temperatures is dehydration
(Grim 1955). At room temperatur or just above , the water in the pores of the rock and
around the edges of the discrete particles of the minerals composing the materia1 is comp1ete1y removed. At temperatures of 100-150 oc the water between the structura1 units of
the material , with the exception of hallysite , is removed and at tmpratures in excess of
300 0 c the OH lattice water is removed.
It is considered that the distributed temperature in the rock close to the drill tip did not
exceed 100 0 c during the drilling process and therefor dehydration , other than that which
occurs at room temperature , did not occur. However , the drilling process may have given
rise to surface cracks and surface weaknesses which were not inherent in the rock. These
weaknesses cannot be distinguished from weaknesses already present in the rock and it is
considered that if additiona1 surface defects ar formed during drilling then these defects do
not give rise to a signifcant decrease in tensile strength.
1n the case of the high volatile coa1s a hardned skin is probably formed by the drilling
process. Evidence for such a hardened skin has been provided by Berenbaum and Brodie
(1959b) and Brown and Pomeroy (1957). Thus the disk with a ho1e' technique for
determining tensile strength may not be applicable to these coals.

4. Mode of fracture
Holdsworth and Werb10w (1960 , private communication) have studied the crack formation in disks of Pennant sandstone using an electronic microsecond counter and high-sped
photography. In the counter method two paralle1 pencil Iines were drawn in. apart on
six Pennant sandstone disks of 2.7 in. external diameter. The two lines were then connected to the start and stop connections of a microsecond counter and the disks were
broken a10ng the diameter perpendicular to the parallellines. It was found that breakag
of the 1ine closest to the hole started the counter and that the counter was subsequently
stopped when the other graphite 1ine was broken. Thus the direction of trave1 of the
crack from the interna1 to the external diameter was established. From the results obtained
an estimate was made ofthe speed oftrave1 ofthe crack; this was found to be approximateJy
22000 in. sec-1 This result was in accord with the photographic evidence which showed
that the cracking mechanism is completed in less than 300 microseconds.
A simple procedure was adopted in the present work to assess whether the plaster and
rock disks tested fai1ed in tension. Solid disks and disks with a small central hole were
t A shaly clay minera1.

An assessment

01 a

technique 10r determining the tensile


01 rock


prepared from each block of rock tested and from each of the preliminary plaster mixes
tested. The disks were then fractured. If the solid disks failed along the loaded diameter
at a mean load Ws and the disks with a central hole failed along the loaded diameter at a
mean load WH , then the disks with a hole failed in tension if Ws was greater than WH.
If WS and W are approximately equal , howevr failure occurs either in tension or in
shear close to the loading platns since at the sam load the shear stresses close to the
loading platens are , by St. Venant s principle , the same for both sets of disks. Of the range
of rock types tested to date all but one have , by this simple procedure , failed in tension.
Thus the ratio betwen the maximum shear stress and maximum tensil stress is sufficiently
small to prevent shar failure occurring close to the loading platns prior to tensile failure
occurring along the loaded diamter.
When plaster and rock disks with small central holes are crushed failure is initiated
along the loaded diameter and subsidiary cracks differing in number from 0 to 4 forrn in
the two halves of the broken disk. These subsidiary cracks start at , or close to , the edg
of the loaded area of the disk and generally propagate to th surface of the central hole.
For plaster disks the number of subsidiary cracks is related to the tensile strenh of the
disks , the larger the number of subidiary cracks the stronger the disks. A photograph
showing the more frequent modes of fracture for both plastr and rock disks is shown in
figur 3 (p late)t.
Th plaster disks shown are of 1.24 in. diameter , with a central hole
diameter of 0.086 in. and a thickness of 0.5 in. The rock disks shown are of 1 in. diamter
with a variety of central hole diameters and a thickness of 0.25 in.
The following mechanism is suggested to account for the subsidiary cracks. When the
tensile diametrical crack propagates , the load falls. The load is now supported by the
two half disks. At a particular load or stress , shear cracks start from the edge of the
loaded areas and propagate further either by the action of tensile stresses or by the action
of shear stresses. However , a point is reached whn the tensile stress along the crack
edge reaches , by analogy with the stresses in a curved beam , the tensile strenh of the
material; a change in crack direction then occurs and the crack propagates to the surface
of the central holIn the case of disks with large central holes the shear cracks do not
propagate from the edge of the loaded aras instead secondary tnsile cracks are forrned
in each half disk as shown in figure 4 (plate).
5. The effect of an eccentrically placed hole on the tensile strenh
In general the circular contours of the plaster and rock disks were not concentric. An
approximate solution for the stresses around a small bole eccentrically placed can be
obtained by combining the solution for the stresses within a solid disk (Frocht 1948) with
Kirsch s solution (1898) for the stress distribution around a circar hole.
If the distance between the centres of the two circles is e, then the maximum tensile
stress around the circular hole , when the centres of th two circles lie on the line of the
loads , is given by
W (_
P = _"
1Tat I



+ _....::::::_
a - e + a-=el


and , when the centres of the circles lie on the diameter perpendicular to tbe line of the
loads, the maximum tensile stress is given by

W 2(3a2 - e2 )(a2
- ----- 2




+ e2


The value of P1TatjW is given in table 1 for two values of a and three values of e.
t Plates at end of issue.



w. Hobbs

Table 1. The effect of an eccentrically placed hole on the maximum tensiIe stress
P 7Tat/W

e (in.)

External diameter
a (in.)


Hole centre on
line of loads

Hole centre on diameter

perpendicular to line of loads







;:; 300

Holc centre on line 01 load s

Hole centre on diameter perpendicar to Iine 01 load

-Theoretical cum






Eccentricity e (in.l





Hole cmtre on line 01 loads

~ole ~e~tre. on diameter perpendicular to

line 01 loads
- Theoretical curve





Eccentricity e (in .l

Figure 5. (a) Theoretical and experimental results for plaster disks with eccentrically placd
holes. Disks 1.24 in. external diam<:ter, 0.086 in. internal diameter and 0.5 in. thick. (b)
Theoretical and experimental results for Ormonde sandstone disks with eccentrically placed holes.
Disks 1 in. external diameter, o. 125 in. internal diameter and 0.25 in. thick.

An assessment of a technique for determinng the tensile strength of rock


The maximum value of e for the plaster and rock disks used in these experiments was less
than 1/16 .0625) in. The assumption that the disks tested contained concentric ho1es
therefore gave rise to an error in the individual tensile strength results of, at most, 5 %.
However , the error in the mean tensile strength was probably considerably less than 5%
for two reasons: firstly , an eccentrically placed hole can either increase or decrease the
maximum tensile stress , and secondly , the disks were generally crushed along a diameter
which passes through the centre of the eccentrically placed hole (the equ i1i brium position
of the disk).
Equations (7) and (8) provide a simple mans of testing the applicability of elasticity
theory to rock and plaster since the tensile strenh of disks with eccntrically placed holes
calculated from these equations should be constant.
The results of the measurements of applied load required for breakage of plaster and
Ormonde sandstonet disks with holes of known eccentricity are shown in figures 5 (a)
and (b) , where the fracture load is plotted against eccentricity. Each point plotted is the
mean of 6 or 7 observations. The full1ines shown represent the theortical fracture loads
obtained from equations (7) and (8) assuming that the specimen fractures when the maximum tensile stress reaches a constant value. It can be seen from these curves that reasonable agreemnt occurs between experiment and theory. However plaster disks crushed
along the diameter passing through the hole centre were stronger than the simple theory
would suggest , probably because the load is distributed not along a line but over a band.
This would have the effect of reducing the maximum theoretical tensile stress and therefore
a higher load would b necessary to fracture the plaster disks. For th Ormond sandstone
disks with holes of eccentrcty n. crushed along the diameter passing through the hole
centre the agreement betwen experiment and theory is possibly fortuitous. There are two
reasons for this: firstly , for such large eccentricities the distribution of the load over a band
wi11 hav a consderable nfiuence on the stresses , and secondly , the simple theoretical
approach does not apply when a hole of finte size is present c1 0se to the loadng platens
(a region of rapdly changing stresss).
6. Direct comparison of disk with hole' technique with other methods of determining tensile
1n Table 2 results are gven of a comparson btween the diametrical compression of a
disk with a small central hole with thre other types of tensile tes t. The uncertainties
quoted are the standard errors of the mean and the figures in brackets the number of
specimens tsted. The tensil specimens for the four kinds of tens i1e test wer moulded
from six plaster mixes.
Table 2. Comparison of methods of measuring tensile

Type of specimen


Beams for bending test

Squares for indentation
Disks for compression
Disks with hole for compresson test

4 in. x t in. x t in.

1 in. x 1 in. x in.
(indenter width- in.)
1 . 24 in. diameter
0.5 in. thikness
1 .24 in. diameter
o.5 in. th.ickness
O' 086 in. hole diameter


(I b in.- 2)
89 6:1: 37 (6)
527i:. 6 (4

Ratio of tensile strength

to that from diametrical
compression of disk
with central hole

442 :i:: 4 (12)


156 6:l: 21 (12)


It can be seen from table 2 that the results differ wdely, the highest tens 1 e strength
occurring for the diametrcal compression of a disk wth a hole. The coefficient of variaton is highst for the bendngtest and approxmately the same for the othr three methods.

t Massive fine grained calcareous sandstone with a quartz content of 75%.



W. Hobbs

Berenbaurn and Brodie (1 959 a) attributed the diiference between the bending test resu1ts
and the indentation and solid disk test results to a toughened surface skin formed during
the casting and setting processes. However , such a surface skin was not present in the
disk with a hole technique since the holes were drilled after baking. It is considred
that the following factors , particularly the first , contributed towards the difference in the
tensile strength results shown in table 2:
(i) The strngth of a plaster specirnen is dependent upon the volurne stressed (see S7).
(ii) In the indentation test and solid disk test th portion of the specirnen subjected to a
high tensile stress is also subjected to a cornpressive stress perpendicular to the
tensile stress; the lateral strain produced by the cornpressive stress is therefore of
the same sign as the strain produced by the tensile stress. If the strngth of plaster
is dependent on the rnagnitude of the strain as well as the magnitude of the stress
then tensile failure will occur at a lower stress than in the other two rnethods.
7. The dependence of tensile strenh on sk dimensions
7. 1. Plaster
Plaster disks with three external diameters and a single thicknss (0. 5 in.) were rnouldd
from three plaster rnixes , and 3 or 4 disks with each of the chosen ratios of internal to
external diarneter were prepared frorn each rnix. The disks were crushed and their tensile
strength ca1culated using either equation (5) or fgure 2 , dpending on the rnagnitude of
the ratio of the internal to the external diameter. The results of these tests are shown in
figure 6. Tests wre also carried out on plaster disks of three thicknesses with an external
diameter of 1.24 in. and an interna1 diamter of 0.086 in. These specirnens were cast
from four plastr mixes , approximately 12 disks of each thickness being obtained from
ach mix. The dependence of tensile strength on disk thickness is shown in figure 7.


Externa[ diameter
'" 0'75 in.
0'5 in.















0 5


| erna[




Figure 6. Variation in tensile strength of

plaster with the intemal and extemal disk



Disk thickness




Figure 7. Variation in tensile strenh of

plaster with disk thickness.

The results rnay be surnrnarized as follows: The tensile strenh (i) decreases with increasing intemal diameter, (ii) increases with incrasing external diameter, and (iii) decreases with increasing disk thickness. A comparison of the means of the two groups
with thicknesses 0.24 in. and 0.48 in. , and of the two groups with thicknesss 0.48 in.
and 1.13 ins shows that th differences are statistically significant at the 2 % and 0.1 %
probability levels respectively. The changes in tensile strength can probably be accounted
for by the weakest link theory' (Evans and Porneroy 1958).

An assessment of a technique for


the tensile


of rock


7.2. Darley Dale sandstonet

Darley Dale sandstone disks of various dimensions were prepared from a single block
of rock. Eight specimens of each size were crushed. The results are given in table 3.
The uncertainties quoted represent the standard errors of the mean.
Table 3. Mean tensile strenh of disks of Darley Dale sandstone (lb in- 2)
Internal diamter



3450 ::1:: 120

2990 80
3180. 20

3400 110

3060 100


3270 ::1:: 150

3580 70
3840 70




2450 130


2520 60
3170 90
3370 ::1:: 120

The results for Darley Dale sandstone are in agreement with the plaster results in the
following two respects: (i) the tensile strength decreases with increasing internal diameter
and (ii) the tensile strength increases with increasing external diameter. However, for the
1 in. diameter disks of Darley Dale sandstone , no trend in tensile strength occurs with
increasing thickness but for the disks 2.8 in. in diameter there is a suggestion of an increase
in tensile strenh with increasing thickness. Th explanation for this increase may be
similar to the one given by Hobbs (1962) to account for the changes in mean compressive
strength with increasing dimensions of rctangular blocks of Barnsley Hards coal crushed
parallel to the bedding planes. Hobbs showd that if failure occurs when a succession of
breaks have occurrd across the width of the specimen then the strength should increase
with increasing spcimen width.
8. Conclusions
A satisfactory technique for determining the tensile strength of rock has been developed.
This technique consists of crushing a rock disk with a central hole along a diameter. Failure
then occurs along the loaded diameter and subsidiary cracks are generally formed in the
two half disks. An explanation has been given for th mode of fracture.
The disk with a hole technique has the following advantages:
(i) it is a direct tensile test ,
(ii) specimens can be prepared from the same cores as the specimens for the compression
tests ,
(iii) th same testing machine can be used for both tensile and compression tests ,
(iv) measurements can easily be made of th tensile strength at a number of orientations
to the laminations ,
(v) failure occurs away from the loading platns.
It has been shown that the experimental failure stresses for plaster and Ormonde sandstone disks with eccentrical1 y placed holes are in reasonable agreement with the stresses
obtained from theoretical elasticity. This agreement provides some justification for the
application of elasticity theory to rock.
The tensile strength of disks of plaster and Darley Dale sandstone is depndent upon
the dimensions of the disk and increases with increasing xternal diamter and decreases
with increasing internal diamete r. It is suggested that the high tensile strengths observed
with the disk with a hole' technique as compared with other methods of determining tensile
strength is due to such a size effect.
If the diametrical compression of a disk with a small central hole is used as a technique
[or detrmining the tensile strength of rock it is important that specimens of the same

t Massive medium grained sandstone with a quartz content of approximately



D. W. Hobbs

geometry and size ar crushed , otherwise the results will be of doubtful value. To reduce
the effects of the local conditions of the rock at the inner boundary , the inner diameter
should be large relative to the size of the aggregate. Convenient disk dimensions for a
standardized test specimen are a diameter of 1 in. , a hole diameter of 0.125 in. and a
thickness of O. 25 in.
The author is grateful to Mr. D. W. Jordan , Mr. J. F. Holdsworth and Mr. A. R. Mears
for obtaining equation (1) , and to Mr. E. F. Painter who assisted with both the experimental
and computational work. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessari1y
those of the Nationa1 Coa1 Board.
BE'NBAUM R. , and BRODIE, 1., 1959 a, Brit. J. Appl. Phys. , 10, 28 1.
1959 b, J. Inst. Fuel, 32, 320.
BROWN, J. H. , and POMEROY, C. D. , 1958, Proc. Conf on Mechanical Properties 01 Non-Metallic
Brittle Materials , London (London: Butterworths) , p. 419.
EVANS , 1., and POMEROY, C. D. , 1958, Proc. Conf on Mechanical Properties 01 Non-![eta l[ic Brittle
Materials, London (London: Butterworths) , p.5.
FILON, L. N. G. , 1924, Sel. Engng Pap. Instn Civ. Engrs , Paper No. 12.
FROCHT, M. M. , 1948, Photoelasticity, Vo1. II (New York: John W i1ey and Sons) , pp. 127, 196.
GRIM , R. E. , 1955, Clay Minerology (London: McGraw Hill) , p. 16 1.
HOBBS, D. W. , 1962, Proc. Phys. Soc. , 80, 497.
KIRs CH, G. , 1898 , Z. Ver. Dtsch. Ing. , 32 , 797.
LEEMAN, E. R. , 1956, Engineering, Lond. , 181 , 20 1.
RIPPERGER, E. A. , and DAVIDS, N. , 1946, Proc. Amer. Soc. Civ. Engrs , 72, 159.

BRlT. J. ^I'I'L. PHYS. ,



16-- D. W. Hobbs

Figurc 3.

Modc ()f fracture of plaster and rock disks with a smaJl central hole.

l igurc 4.

Mode of fracturc of disks with large ccntral holes.