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Multiple modes of shear failure In rock

Les differents modes de rupture par cisaillement dans les roches

Verschiedene Arten des Felsscherbruches

by F. D. PATTON,Geologist and Foundation Engineer

Research Associate, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, U. S. A., (presently NATO Post-Doctora
Fellow, LNEC, Lisbon, Portugal)

Summary Resume Zusammenfassung

The mechanism of shear failure in rock On a etudie Ie mecanisme de rupture des Durch Untersuchung von mehr als 300
was investigated by studying over 300 rock roches par cisaillement, en observant plus Felsboschungen in den Rocky Mountains,
slopes in the Rocky Mountains, making de 300 pentes rocheuses dans les Montagnes Rutschreibungsversuche von Gesteinsproben
laboratory sliding friction tests on rock Rocheuses, en fa isant, au laboratoire, des und direkte Scherversuche von vorgetauschten
samples and direct shear tests on simulated essais de frottement sur des eprouvettes de Gesteinsoberfliichen im Labor, sowie Durch-
rock surfaces, and reviewing the shear roches et des essais de cisaillement directs sicht der einschliigigen Literatur, wurde
strength literature. This paper describes the sur des modeles de surfaces rocheuses, et der Mechanismus des Felsscherbruches er-
Iabora tory shear tests used to provide a en passant en revue la literature sur la resis- forscht. Dieses Referat beschreibt die La-
theoretical framework for interpreting the tance au cisaillement, Dans la presente borversuche die durchgefiihrt wurden, urn
shear strength of intact or discontinuous communication, on decrit les essais de ein theoretisches Gedankengebiiude zur Erk-
rock having an irregular failure surface. cisaillement executes au laboratoire qui ont larung der Scherfestigkeit ganzen oder di-
Specimens made of plaster of Paris were servi II etablir un cadre theorique permettant skontinuierlichen Felsens entlang einer un-
cast with irregular surfaces and tested in l'interpretation de la resistance au cisaille- regelrnassigen Bruchfliiche zu schaffen. Es
a specially designed shearing device. Test ment de roches intactes ou discontinues wurden Gipsproben mit unregelmiissigen
variables included the inclination, number, ayant une surface de rupture irreguliere. Oberfliichen geformt, und in einer speziell
and strength of the specimen teeth, and the Dans un dispositif projete expressernent II entworfenen Schereinrichtung geprUft. Unter
normal loads applied. The following con- ce but, on a fait des essais de cisaillement anderem, wurde die Abhiingigkeit der Er-
clusions were drawn: I) failure envelopes sur des echantillons en platre de Paris, gebnisse von der Neigung, AnzahI und Fe-
for specimens with irregular failure surfaces rnoules avec des surfaces irregulieres, Les stigkeit der Probezahne, sowie von der
are curved, 2) changes in the slope of a variables de J'essai comprenaient I'Inclinai- Normallast untersucht. Es wurden folgende
failure envelope reflect changes in the mode son, Ie nombre, et la resistance des redents Ergebnisse erhalten: I) Die Mohrsche Urn-
of failure, and 3) changes in the mode of de l'echantillon et les charges normales hullungskurve fur Proben mit unregelmiissiger
failure are related to the physical proper- appliquees, On en a conclu que: I) les Bruchfliiche ist krummlinig. 2) Steilheitsan-
ties of the irregularities along the failure courbes intrinseques de rupture des echan- derungen der Mohrschen UmhUlIungskurve
Surface. An application of these conclusions tillons ayant des surfaces de rupture irre- zeigen Anderungen der Bruchart an. 3) An-
was demonstrated by interpreting a series gulieres ne sont pas droites; 2) des varia- derungen der Bruchart hiingen von den phy-
of laboratory shear tests on rock. tions dans I'inclinaison de la courbe in- sikalischen Eigenschaften der Unregelmiissig-
trinseque traduisent des variations dans Ie keiten der Bruchfliiche abo Die Erkliirung
mode de rupture; et 3) les differents modes einer Reihe von Laborscherversuchen mit
de rupture refietent les caracteristiques phy- Felsen zeigt eine erfolgreiche Anwendung
siques des irregularites de la surface de dieser Schliisse.
rupture. On a dernontre les conclusions
ci-avant, en les appliquant II I'interpretation
d'une serie d'essais de cisaillement de roches
executes au laboratoire.

I. Introduction By making corrections for the geometry of the rock discon-

tinuities, the angle of frictional sliding resistance along a
Previous work by NEWLANDand ALLELY (1957), RIPLEY relatively flat plane was determined under field conditions.
and LEE(1961), and WITHERS(1964) indicated that irregulari- For sandstones and carbonate rocks this angle was found
ties along failure surfaces should play an important role to compare favorably with the angle of residual frictional
in the determination of shear strength characteristics of sliding resistance obtained from laboratory tests on wet,
rocks. With this in mind, a field and laboratory investigation relatively flat, rough-sawn sandstone and carbonate rock
into the effect of surface irregularities was undertaken. surfaces.
The effects of natural irregularities on the stability The field and laboratory study showed that irregularities
of rock slopes were studied on over 300 stable, unstable, have an appreciable influence upon the shearing resistance
and failed slopes in the Rocky Mountains (PATTON,1966). of rock masses. Furthermore, it seemed apparent that

different modes of shear failure take place along irregular
rock surfaces. For example, failures of rock masses have
occurred by sliding along rock surfaces having various
orientations, by shearing through intact rock, or both.
A framework that would permit this multiple-mode failure
mechanism to be better understood and allow an improved
interpretation of the results of shear tests on rock was
required. The laboratory tests described in this paper
were devised to help provide such a framework. BB " Ill 011.55-

D. Test specimens
The interpretation of the results of shear tests on real
rocks is usual1y complicated by sample variability - even
when several samples are taken from the same block of
Fig. 1 - Some
BBof the Different Types of Plaster Specimens
rock. To overcome this difficulty the laboratory specimens
were made from an artificial material so that the shape,
size, and internal strength of the irregularities or teeth Cylindrical samples, which were cast and cured with
on the surface of the test specimens could be evaluated separa-
each series of test specimens, were later tested for their
tely. point-load tensile strength and their unconfined compressive
Plaster of Paris was selected as the testing material as
it had rock-like properties, fil1ers could be added to vary
its strength, and the shape of the teeth could be accurately
reproduced using molds. Two different fillers - crushed III. Test apparatus and procedure
quartz sand and kaolinite - were used to decrease the
strength of the specimens. The properties and ingredients A direct shear device was constructed to permit elec-
of the specimens are outlined in Table t. tronic recording of the loads and the vertical and horizontal

Table 1

Summary of Physical Properties of Plaster of Paris Specimens

Sand Sand Kaolinite Kaolinite


Ratio Filler: Plaster by weight 3: I 3:2 I: I I: 2

Weight Mixing Water Ibs/IOO Ibs Plaster 148 85 127 96
Unit weight at testing lbs/cu ft 88.9 94.3 64.5 66.9
~, degrees (1) 34-36 35-39 27-28 29-30

Tests on Cilinders

Av. unconfined comp, strength psi 248 1240 601 988

A v. point-load tensile strength psi 53 120 70 90
1.15 .22 .45
Average E, x 108 psi (I) .65

(I) Obtained from direct shear tests after large displacements

(2) E1 is the tangent modulus of elasticity at Soo/u ultimate stren&tb

Five to eight identical specimens of 12 geometrical con- displacements. This allowed the complete load-displacement
figurations were made for each of the four mixes. Four curve to be obtained even with brittle materials.
types of inclined teeth with slopes of 25, 35, 45, and 55 The shearing device consisted of 1) a shear box in which
were formed. Two series of specimens - one with four teeth a horizontal shearing force was applied, 2) a motor, variable-
and the other with two - were cast for each type of inclined speed transmission, and a worm gear-ram arrangement
teeth. All the teeth had a height of 0.20 inches. that developed and transmitted the shearing force, 3) a
Both halves of each specimen were cast simultaneously loading frame and weights for applying the normal force,
in a brass mold the surfaces of which were machined to 4) twin load cells to measure the shearing force in tension,
within .005 inches. Similar specimens were cast within and 5) three LVDT transducers to measure horizontal and
one or two days of each other. The kaolinite-plaster speci- vertical displacements. Shearing was at a constant rate of
mens were cured at 70F and 5C% relative humidity until displacement of .0624 inches per minute. Most of the results
testing ccrrmenced 45 to 50 days after casting. When both were plotted directly upon a Moseley x-y recorder.
halves of the specimen were placed tcgether after casting, After a series of tests on one type of specimen, the
each specimen was 2.95 inches long, 1.75 inches wide, peak and residual shear strengths were taken from the
and 2.0 inches high. Figure 1 shows some of the different load-horizontal displacement graph made by the x-y recor-
types of specimens. der and plotted on a shear strength diagram at the appro-

priate normal load. The results of several such tests were 2) Specimens with inclined teeth at low normal loads
joined by lines which formed two failure envelopes, one
representing maximum shear strength and the other residual Figure 3 shows two failure envelopes typical of those
shear strength. obtained from tests at low normal loads on specimens with
inclined teeth. The maximum strengths recorded for a number
of specimens were used to form the maximum strength enve-
IV. Definition of terms lope (line A). The residual strengths remaining in these same
specimens after large displacements had occurred were
~ is the angle of sliding or shearing resistance. It is used the basis for the residual strength envelope (line B).
where a more specific term does not seem warranted. The equation describing the maximum strength envelope
~I.l is the angle of frictional sliding resistance. Its value is S = N tan (~I.l+ i) where S is the total shearing strength
changes with the surface characteristics of the rock. For and N is the total normal load. The inclination of the resi-
most practical problems involving rocks, the appropriate dual envelope is ~r and the envelope can be described by the
value of ~I.l can apparently be obtained after large displace- equation S = N tan ~r' For the various plaster specimens,
ments have occurred along macroscopically smooth and the angle ~r was always within 11 of ~I.l and the two were
flat but microscopically irregular (i. e., unpolished) wet often identical.
surfaces. Line A of Figure 3 represents two different types of
~r is the angle of residual shearing resistance of materials strengths. It represents the value of the external frictional
which initially were partly or completely intact. It is obtained resistance along the inclined planes, and it represents the
from the asymptotic minimum values of shear strength internal strength of the teeth at the point of failure. When
following large displacements. . failure occurs these two strengths are equal.
i is the angle of inclination of the failure surfaces with It may be noted from line A that although intact material
respect to the direction of application of the shearing force. was sheared there was no cohesion intercept indicated
It is also used in a graphical sense as a particular angle when the results were plotted. Yet the internal cohesive
on a shear strength diagram. strength of the teeth still contributed to the total strength
by making possible the development of increased frictional
resistance along the surface of the teeth. The precise con-
V. Resnlts tribution of the internal cohesive strength of the teeth
at any given normal load is the difference in strengths
between the maximum and residual strength envelopes.
The results presented here are from the tests on speci-
A cohesion intercept would occur if the sum of ~I.l+i became
mens of kaolinite-plaster. Similar results were obtained
equal to or greater than 900.
from tests on the sand-plaster specimens.

1) Specimens with fiat surfaces 3) Different inclinations of teeth

Results from three series of tests, each made on speci-

Figure 2 shows a typical failure envelop , from a series mens with different inclinations of teeth, are shown in
of ,direct shear tests on relatively flat, unpolished, surfa7es. Figure 4. The failure envelope for specimens with i = 250
FaIlure envelopes from these specimens were straight is a straight line -line A. For specimens with i = 350
lines passing through the origin and inclined at an angle and i = 45 the failure envelopes are curved but each envelope
~I.l from the horizontal. The angle ~I.l for the specimens of can be approximated by two straight lines as are envelopes
the stronger mix (kaolinite-plaster I :2) was 310. For the Band C, respectively. Line D is drawn through the residual
weaker mix ~I.l was 2710. shear strengths of aU three series of specimens.

. (/)
... ..en


.. ..
..c:. QI


Normal Load, N Normal Load" N

Fig. 2 - Failure Envelope for Specimens with Flat Surfaces Fig. 3 - Failure Envelopes for Specimens with Irregular Surfaces

MAll VALU[~ 'Oft , TE(IH o KAOllNlf[ ,PLAST!1t ll21.,.4S"
6 MAll VAlU(~'()III 2 fEtfH 6 I<AOlINl1[ "lASTEoII 1l.11,;'U"
. It(SIQUAl VALUn 'Olt 1I0TH " 1t[5'OUAL VAlUeS 11:21 SP[CIM[N5

~llOAO,H .. 1M. "'" 100


lOAO. N 1M.


Fig. 4 - Failure Envelopes for Specimens Fig. 5 - Failure Envelopes for Specimens Fig. 6 - Failure Envelopes for Specimens
with Different Inclinations of Teeth with Different Numbers of Teeth with Different Internal Strengths

The inclinations of the lower or primary portions of From tests made on higher strength specimens it was
lines A , B, and C are equal to, or within one degree of, found that specimens with four teeth often gave failure
i11+i. The inclinations of the upper or secondary portions envelopes that were only slightly greater than the envelopes
of lines Band C are very close to the 'value i,. The abrupt for specimens with two teeth. This was interpreted as evi-
changes in the slopes of lines Band C are related to changes dence of progressive failure.
in the mode of failure. Below the changes in slope the maxi-
mum shearing strength is related to the frictional resistance 5) Varying the strength of the teeth
along the inclined surfaces. Above the transition in slope
the maximum strength is unrelated to the increased surface Figure 6 shows the results of tests on two series of spe-
friction due to the inclination of the teeth. cimens with identical surface configurations but different
The cross-sectional area of the intact material at the internal strengths. Line A is the failure envelope for the
base of the 350 teeth is greater than for the 450 teeth. This stronger specimens and line B for the weaker specimens.
explains why the transition in the mode of failure for the Lines C and D are their respective residual strength envelopes.
two inclinations of teeth occurred at different normal Slopes of the primary and secondary portions of the
loads. Line A is straight because the range of normal loads failure envelopes are slightly different for each series of
used was not high enough to reach the transition for the tests. These differences reflect a change in ~11 and ~, for
specimens with 250 teeth. the two strengths of specimens. The change in mode of
failure occurs at a higher normal stress for the stronger
specimens than for the weaker ones. Thus, increasing the
4) Varying the number of teeth
strength of the specimen teeth has an effect similar to that
Figure 5 shows the effect of doubling the number of of increasing the number of teeth.
teeth from two to four and keeping the specimens identical
in other respects. Each maximum strength failure envelope, VI. Conclusions
although curved, is approximately described by two straight
lines. The secondary portion of the failure envelope for Three general conclusions can be drawn from the results
specimens with four teeth '(line A) is about twice as far of the tests on plaster specimens: 1) failure envelopes for
above the residual envelope' (line C) as the envelope for specimens with irregular failure surfaces are curved, 2)
specimens with two teech (line B). changes in the slope of the failure envelope reflect changes
The steeply sloping primary portions of the failure in the mode of failure, and 3) changes in the mode of failure
envelopes are approximately equal to ~11+ i , The inclina- are related to the physical properties of the irregularities
tions of the secondary portions of the failure envelopes along the failure surface.
are approximately i,. The change in slope again is related These conclusions, together with the fact that ~ does not
to a change in the mode of failure associated with the initial vary throughout a wide range of normal loads (although
displacements. ~+i does vary), have many practical applications. In par-
The effect of having additional teeth is to move the ticular, they facilitate the interpretation of curved failure
abrupt change in slope of the failure envelope to a higher envelopes.
normal load and to move the secondary portion of the
failure envelope about twice as far above the residual enve- VII. Interpretation of tests on real rocks
lope as the failure envelope for two teeth.
This diagram illustrates the difficulties encountered in From the results of shear tests on real rocks one would
attaching any real meaning to the average shearing stresses expect to obtain a superposition of the effects of the separate
computed for tests on real rocks. In rocks the number, variables investigated for the plaster specimens. For example,
size, and shape of the irregularities are unknown; hence the in the same sample of rock the irregularities along the failure
real shearing and normal stresses are also unknown. surface would have different sizes, inclinations, internal

ill: 29~41 ill~-4lr:33
300 300
: 10- 50 psi

.. 200


00 100 200 300 100 200 300




Fig. 7 - Two Interpretations of Direct Shear Tests on Ruck Samples with Irregular Surfaces

strengths, and coefficients of friction. Thus, failure envelopes normal load of 120 and 270 psi some larger irregularities
for rocks would not reflect a simple change in the mode which had inclinations of 10 (43 minus 33) became effec-
of failure but changes in the intensities of different modes tive. Above 270 psi these larger irregularities began to fail
of failure occurring simultaneously. before displacements could occur.
. Figure 7 illustrates two interpretations that can be For some engineering design purposes straight-line
given to four series of tests (A , B , C , and D) on different failure envelopes are adequate. But to facilitate an under-
surfaces of the same rock. Figure 70 shows the shear test standing of the failure mechanisms curved failure envelopes
results interpreted as forming straight-line failure envelopes. reflecting the multiple modes of shear failure appear to be
This is equivalent to saying that only one mode of failure a necessity.
o~urred during the tests at different stress levels. From
F!gure 70 it would also appear that the value of ~ was
dIfferent for each series of tests and was not a relatively VIII. Acknowledgments
c~nstant property of the material. In addition, the straight-
line envelopes could lead some designers to conclude that This paper is based upon a thesis submitted in partial
an appreciable amount of cohesive strength exists at zero fulfillment of the requirements for a Ph. D. in Geology at
nor mal load. These errors are avoided in Figure 7b in which the University of Illinois. The thesis was completed under
the same data is used to form curved failure envelopes. the direction of Dr. D. U. Deere, professor of civil engineer-
The curved failure envelopes in Figure 7b also provide ing and geology, who made many valuable contributions
more information on the geometry and effectiveness of the to the study.
surface irregularities than is offered in' Figure 70. For
example, at a given normal stress the vertical distance
between a point on any maximum strength failure envelope References
and the residual envelope (line E) gives the internal strength
contributed by the irregularities. This strength is the strength NEWLAND. P. L., and B. H. ALLELY - 1957, Volume changes in drai-
ned triaxial tests on granular materials, Geotechnique, Vol. VD,
that is lost when significant displacements occur along the
pp. 17-34.
failure plane. PATTON, F. D. - 1966, Multiple Modes of Shear Failure in Rock
. From Figure 7b the rocks of the test series outlined by and Related Materials, Ph. D. Thesis, Univ. of Illinois, 282 pp.
~me A can be interpreted as having small relatively steep RIPLEY, C. F., and K. L. LEE - 1961, Sliding friction tests on sedi-

Irregularities which were effective between a normal stress mentary rock specimens, Communication 8, 7th Congress of
Large Dams, Vol. IV, pp. 657-671.
of 0 to 40 psi. Above 40 psi these small irregularities failed WITHERS, J. H. - 1964, Sliding Resistance Along Discontinuities In
before displacements could occur along them. Between a Rock Massi'S. Ph. D. Thesis. Univ. of Illinois. 124 pp.