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Eurock '96, Barla (ed.) 1996 Balkema, Rotterdam.

ISBN 90 5410 843 6

Prediction of in situ shear strength of rock joints
Prediction de la resistance au cisaillement in situ des joints de roche
Vorhersage von In-Situ-Scherfestigkeit von Gesteinklufte
T.T.Papaliangas - Department of Civil Engineering, Technological Educational lnstitution, Thessaloniki .
A. C. Lumsden &S. R. Hencher - Department of Earth Sciences, University of Leeds, UK
ABSTRACT: A method for estimating the peak shear strength of a rock joint in situ is presented. The method
is based on a new simple theoretical peak shear strength criterion, which uses a realistic mechanism of shearing
and implies that peak shear strength at any normal stress is the result of two components: one purely frictional
and one geometrical. For in-situ rock blocks the dilation is negligible and the peak shear strength can be
estimated from the frictional component only.
RESUME: Une methode pour estimer la maximum de resistance au cisaillement des joints de roche in situ est
presente. La methode est basee a un nouvel et simple critere theorique de la maximum de resistance au
cisaillement, que utilise un mechanisme realiste de fracture et entraine que la resistance maximum en fraction,
que1que soit la tension normal, est Ie resultant de deux composants: un purement de frottement et un
geometrique. La dilatation est negligeable pour les bloques des roches in situ, et la maximum de resistance au
cisaillement peut etre estimer seulement par Iecomposant de frottement.
ZUSAMMENFASSUNG: Zur Abschatzung del' In Situ-Spitzenscherfestikeit VOl' Ort wird ein Verfahren
Vorgestellt, das auf einem neuen, einfachen theoretischen Kriterium basiert. Das Kriterium macht von einem
realistischen Mechanismus del' Sherkraft in Gesteinen Gebrauch, nach dem die Spitzenscherfestikeit einer
Gesteinkluft unter Normaldruck aus zwei Komponenten besteht: einer Reibungskomponente und einer
geometrischen Komponente. Bei Gesteinformationen ist die geornetrische Komponente vernachlassigbar und
die Spitzenscherfestikeit lasst sich alIein durch die Reibungskomponente abschatzen
A new simple theoretical peak shear strength for rock
jOints has been recently proposed by Papaliangas et
al, (1995). According to the new criterion, the peak
friction angle of a rock joint can be considered as a
two-component quantity: a) a purely frictional
(independent of normal stress) component J m' due to
shearing of the rock wall material and b) a dilational
component 'If, due to the surface roughness, i.e.
is the peak shear strength
an is the effective normal stress
the friction angle of the rock wall material and
If! is the dilation angle at the instant of peak shear
It is accepted that for clean, rough, dilatant joints
the friction angle t/J m arises from the shear strength
of rock junctions, formed under normal stress
sufficiently high to cause plastic deformation of the
contacting asperities, as anticipated from the
adhesion theory (Bowden & Tabor, 1950). This
occurs when the true normal stress approaches the
brittle-plastic transition stress and therefore, t/J m can
be determined from triaxial tests at confining
pressure of this magnitude (Figure I). The brittle-
plastic transition stress may be higher or lower than
the unconfined compressive strength. Some strong
rocks, such as granites, may have a transition
pressure as high as five times the unconfined
compressive strength or higher, whereas limestones
and marbles may have a transition pressure lower
transition stress
Normal stress
: ]
25 MFa
lL) [ 20 MFa
'" 75
- < \
o MFa
sin if! = CY , - CY J = /23 - 20 = 0.72
CY'+CYJ /23+20
2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0
Axial shortening (%)
Figure I: Friction angle of intact rock material determined from triaxial tests.
(a) From the shear strength envelope and the brittle-plastic transition stress.
(b) From the axial stress-axial strain curve corresponding to the brittle-plastic transition (er3=20 MFa).
than the unconfined compressive strength (Mogi,
1966, Paterson, 1978). Byerlee (1978) found that
mineralogy has little or no effect on the friction angle
of rocks, but Mogi (1966) calculated friction angles
for carbonate rocks which were markedly higher than
those of silicate rocks. From an analysis of published
experimental data, it appears that typical values for
rP m for natural, rough joints in fresh rock are about
for silicates and a few degrees higher for
carbonates. Therefore, if the dilation is zero, the peak
friction angle will be equal to rP m which represents a
lower bound. This lower bound, which is
considerably higher than the friction angle obtained
from saw-cut surfaces, is in agreement with most
experimental results, where a lower bound of this
magnitude is observed in most direct shear tests. Two
examples of such results taken from Baldovin (1970)
and Giani (1992) are shown in Figure 2. If the joint
is filled with sandy or clayey material, both the
dilational and frictional characteristics are altered
(Papaliangas et aI., 1990 and 1993).
Using the principles of contact theory (Greenwood
&Williamson, 1966), the following formula for the
peak dilation angle is obtained:
cr nt: anT
tan\fl =tan\flolog/o--/ log/o-- (2)
c r
\fI is the dilation angle at the instant of peak shear
strength, under effective normal stress ern
tVa is the peak dilation angle under a normal stress
er"o which causes negligible asperity deformation
ernT is the effective normal stress which suppresses all
Three families of peak shear strength envelopes,
each corresponding to a different value of maximum
asperity angle \flo, are given in Figure 3. The value of
arclan(r/ar)=70 suggested by Barton & Choubey
(1977) as the maximum allowable shear strength for
design purposes has been adopted, hence the
curvilinear envelopes in the right hand diagram of
Figure 3. The angle \flo is the peak dilation angle
when all the roughness is mobilised, and is practically
equal to the maximum asperity angle. It can be
obtained from direct surface measurements or from
direct shear tests under very low normal load, which
causes negligible deformation, for example under the
self-weight of the sample. Methods employing photo-
grarnmetric techniques, profilometry or the plate and
compass (Figure 4) can be used to provide an
appropriate value of \flo in the field. This value of tVo
is dependent upon the base length over which is
calculated. A base length of 0.2% of the full length of
the joint which, according to Parton (1966)
corresponds to the "second order" roughness,
appears to be appropriate.
Relation (2) gives the dilation angle at any normal
stress ern. as a function of the angle \flo> and the two
boundary normal stresses er
" and er
!,. It must be
emphasised that er
which represents the normal
stress where the shear behaviour from dilatant
becomes purely frictional, is generally a fraction of
e pe r aqne r s t s c n r s t g-aphllQUS
Oc laysnille
= f. ocl ornr tvl ur e s tone
+ ou c ascnr s t
t r sno i e
o pny lJ 1 te
s anc s t one
limest one
o ser pent me

X gr ilnl te
O c al c n sc nr s t
-; ; ; -
0.8 ~
>f- or lnoqne \ 'is
c, c,
6 6
0; ,
0; ,
:2 c::
s 0
~ ~
L. L.
Vi t3
0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.2
Normal stress (MPa) Normal stress (MPa)
Figure 2. Peak shear strength data for joints of various rock types, indicated by different lines and symbols:
(a) after Baldovin (1970). (b) after Giani (1992).
1 ; : I
... ; .... ~.. ....j-
8 ---1----1--------
: : 50/~
6 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 10
- - - ~- - - - ~- - - - f - ~i~
~ - - - ~ - - - - ~ - - - ~ - - : -
___ J '--_
I jI =20'
- - r - - - -I - - - -
2 4 6 8 0 2 4 6
Normal stress (MPa)
8 0 2 4 6 8
Figure 3. The new theoretical peak shear strength criterion in graphical form, Each curve is numbered with the
appropriate anT value in MPa. For simplicity < P m is assumed to be 39 throughout
the brittle-plastic transition stress, depending on the
degree of surface contact. There is experimental
evidence that for a large number of natural joints,
anT is about one order of magnitude lower than the
brittle-plastic transition stress. If a value of anT ' "
10MPa, and a
= IkPa is assumed, then equation (2)
tan IIf ' " tan lifo log anT
4 10 aa
For normal stresses higher than o-r, the shear
strength is proportional to normal stress until the
brittle - plastic transition stress, that is
\" s, ..J \
~ ~--""_-'-i-,
10 20 )0 40 50
Plate diameter - ern
- 30
direction of
potential sliding -40
s .:
. 4'0'
" +
Figure 4. The plate and compass method for measuring roughness in the field (after Fecker &Rengers, 1971).
(a). Measurement of asperity angle using circular plates of different size. (b) Plots of poles of dip direction and
dip on equal-area nets. (c) Contours of maximum roughness angle and its variation with plate size.
Beyond the brittle-plastic transition stress, the
shear strength of the joint is equal to that of the intact
rock material.
The results shown in Figure 2(b) are from triaxial
tests on intact cores of a synthetic rock with a
compressive strength of about 50 MPa tested under
different confining pressures. The material becomes
ductile at a confining pressure of about 20 MPa,
where the corresponding axial stress is 123MPa. The
resulting friction angle of the material is 46. The
results from a series of direct shear tests on replicas
of natural joints having different roughness are shown
in Figure 5. These replicas were prepared by using
the same artificial rock and tested in the normal
stress range 0-2 MPa. The measured peak shear
strength is shown in Figure Sea), whereas the non-
dilational peak shear strength, determined in the
manner suggested by Rencher & Richards (1989), is
shown in Figure S(b). The best fit straight line
corresponds to a friction angle of 46.1. This
remarkable agreement shows that the non-dilational
friction angle of rough rock joints is the same as the
friction angle determined from the brittle-plastic
transition of intact rock material. Therefore, the non-
dilational component of peak shear strength is purely
frictional and can be determined either from direct
shear test resuits after elimination of the effect of
dilation or from triaxial tests of the rock wall
material, at confining pressure which is equal to the
brittle-plastic transition stress.
The variation of dilation rate with normal stress
for the same direct shear tests is shown in a
dimensionless form in Figure 6(a). In the horizontal
axis the normalised normal stress (c, / (Jnr ) is
represented, whereas in the vertical axis the ratio of
the dilation rate to the maximum dilation rate (tanur/
tan\jlo). The variation is logarithmic and holds over
four order of magnitudes of normal stress. From the
best-fit line the value of (JnT is defined on the (o,
/ (Jnr ) axis. The values of dilation rate corresponding
at the lowest range of normal stresses were obtained
from shear tests under the self-weight of the sample.
These values are necessary if a reliable estimation of
the value of (JnT is required. For this reason, it is
suggested that in any laboratory testing programme,
each sample be tested under its self weight prior to
main testing at the appropriate normal stress, so that
a reliable average value of tan '1/ at very low normal
stress can be obtained.
1.0 2.0
Normal stress (MFa)
t=1.04 o
=0.991 )
1.0 2.0
Normal stress (MPa)
Figure 5. Peak shear strength ofmodelJ ed joints: (i) measured. (ii) Non-dilationaL
.::t=1 4~rdersO,fmag~rude}j
.- 0.00010.001 0.01 0.1 1 10
Normalised normal stress (<J nlcrnT)
Figure 6. Variation of dilation rate with normal
An important implication of the criterion is that any
Variations in peak shear strength are due to dilation
caused by roughness. Therefore, the scale effect
observed in many situations is artributed to variations
in the mobilised dilation angle, as demonstrated by
Rencher et al. (1993) and Papaliangas et al. (1994).
This explains why flat surfaces or saw-toothed joints
of different size of teeth have no scale effect in peak
shear strength (Ohnishi et al., 1993). Barton (1976)
suggested that the effect of scale dies out for joint
lengths in excess of 2 to 3 m (if large scale or first
order asperities do not exist). Papaliangas et al.
(1994) showed that dilation becomes zero at sample
10 100 1000
Block length (ern)
Figure 7.Variation with sample length of'the dilation
rate corresponding to self-weight tests.
lengths of similar size, even when the samples were
tested under their self-weight (Figure 7). Barton &
Bandis (1982) suggested that the natural block size is
the limit for the scale effect on peak shear strength.
Therefore, it can be considered that for natural
slopes, the effect of dilation is negligible. The
conclusion is that the origin of the in-situ shear
strength is purely frictional and can be described by
equation (3). This is in agreement with the results of
McMahon (1985), who found that for natural large
scale failures the small scale roughness is inactive.
Hencher (1995) suggested that, for design, the
frictional strength can be used directly as a lower
bound, while the dilation can be ignored.
-; ; ; -
E n
150 t:
1; ;
3: number
of slide
50 100 150 200 250 300
Normal stress (kPa)
3: number
of slide
o 50 100 150 200 250 300
Normal stress (kPa)
Figure 8. Two different approaches to interpret the back-calculated shear strength of failed rock slopes in
carbonate rocks (after Maugeri et aI., 1986). (a) Mohr-Coulomb envelope with constant friction angle and
variable cohesion. (b) Purely frictional envelope.
As an example of the applicability of the proposed
method to natural slides, the case of eight rock
slides occured in carbonate rocks during the Friuli
earthquake, Italy, in 1976 (M=6.4) is given.
Theseslides were ana lysed by Maugeri et al. (1986)
and it was found that the acting shear strength,
calculated by parametric back-analysis, could be
represented by the Coulomb failure criterion
(Figure 8a), with a friction angle of 40 degrees and
a cohesion ranging from 6 to 87 kN/m
alternative interpretation which is based on the new
criterion, assumes that the mobilised dilation angle
can be neglected, because the sliding surfaces were
quite large. Therefore, the shear strength is purely
frictional and can be described by equation (4)
'p =(Tn tanm
where r/> m is the friction angle of the rock wall
material. From an analysis of a number of published
experimental data from triaxial tests at confining
pressure equal to the brittle-plastic transition
pressure, carried out by the first author, it was
found that, for carbonate rocks, the friction angle
may vary within a wide range, but typically it falls in
the range 42-45. For seven out of the eight rock
slides analysed by Maugeri et al. (op.cit.) the best-
fit line of the back-calculated shear strength values
is the 45 friction line and the corresponding
correlation coefficient r
=0.97 (Figure 8b).
The compliance to the method proposed is
remarkable and independent of the dipping angle of
the sliding surface which varied from 20 to 70.
The 8th slide (corresponding to a normal stress of
29 kPa) gave higher total friction angle which may
be due to cohesion arising from rock bridges, large-
scale interlocked asperities etc.
The application of a new peak shear strength
criterion for rock joints to discontinuity-controlled
slope stability problems was presented. The
criterion suggests that peak shear strength at any
normal stress is the result of two components, one
purely frictional, which is independent of normal
stress and scale and one geometrical. The origin and
magnitude of the frictional component are explained
by the adhesion theory, whereas the dilational
component may be predicted from consideration of
surface morphology and normal contact theory. The
new criterion implies that any variation in shear
strength is attributed to changes in the geometrical
component only. For large in-situ blocks, the
geometrical component can be neglected and the
shear strength can be considered as purely
frictional. The friction angle can be predicted from
triaxial tests of the rock wall material at sufficiently
high confining pressure to cause plastic deformation
or from direct shear tests after elimination of the
effect of dilation. The criterion has been validated
against laboratory tests and has been successfully
applied to a number of failed rock slopes, which
implies that it can be used for the assessment of the
stability of natural slopes.
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