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International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 44 (2007) 890–902

Strength and failure modes of rock mass models with

non-persistent joints
M. Prudencio, M. Van Sint Jan
Structural and Geotechnical Engineering, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile
Received 13 June 2006; received in revised form 23 January 2007; accepted 25 January 2007
Available online 19 March 2007


Most problems faced by the practicing rock engineer involve the evaluation of rock mass strength and deformability. The theoretical
evaluation of the mechanical properties of fractured rock masses has no satisfactory answer because of the great number of variables
involved. One of these variables, the influence of which over rock mass behavior is poorly documented, is the degree of fracture
persistence. This paper presents the results of biaxial tests performed on physical models of rock with non-persistent joints. The failure
modes and maximum strengths developed were found to depend on, among other variables, the geometry of the joint systems, the
orientation of the principal stresses, and the ratio between intermediate stress and intact material compressive strength (s2/sc). Tests
showed three basic failure modes: failure through a planar surface, stepped failure, and failure by rotation of new blocks. Planar failure
and stepped failure are associated with high strength behavior, and small failure strains, whereas rotational failure is associated with a
very low strength, ductile behavior, and large deformation.
r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Failure through a planar surface; Stepped failure; Failure by rotation of new blocks; Non-persistent joints

1. Introduction where (cj, fj) and (cr, fr) represents the cohesion and
friction angle of the joint and of the intact rock,
The design of high rock slopes, typical of open pits, often respectively, and k is the joint continuity factor given by
requires the evaluation of the rock mass strength along
failure surfaces partly along existing joints and partly k ¼ Lj =ðLj þ Lr Þ, (2)
through the intervening intact rock. Collinear joints
where Lj and Lr are the length of the joint and of the rock
separated by volumes of intact rock are often referred to
bridge, respectively (Fig. 1).
as non-persistent or discontinuous joints. Jennings [1]
Eq. (1) disregards the influence of the joints on the
proposed to compute the combined strength of joint and
stress distribution, and assumes simultaneous failure of
rock bridges from the simple linear weighing of the
the intact material and the joints; it thus disregards the
strength contributed by each fraction of material:
possibility of progressive failure. Jennings’ criterion can
also be expressed in terms of the major principal stresses, as
t ¼ kðcj þ s tan fj Þ þ ð1  kÞðcr þ s tan fr Þ, (1) follows:
ð2= sinð2bÞÞ kcj þ ð1  kÞcr þ s2 1 þ k tan fj þ ð1  kÞ tan fr cot b
s1 ¼   . (3)
1  tan b k tan fj þ ð1  kÞ tan fr

Corresponding author. Different procedures can be used to study the strength of

E-mail address: (M. Prudencio). rock masses with non-persistent joints: field observations

1365-1609/$ - see front matter r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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cement mortar mold before the mortar sets. Lajtai [9] ran
direct shear tests on model material with non-persistent
joints and observed that the failure mode changed with
increasing normal stress; he proposed a composite failure
β envelope to describe the transition from the tensile strength
of the intact material to the residual strength of the
σ2 discontinuities. He thus recognized that maximum shear
σ2 strength develops only if the strength of the solid material
and the joints are mobilized simultaneously. Other
B investigators conducted further experimental research to
d understand, in a qualitative way, the beginning, propaga-
tion, and coalescence phenomena between two joints

Fig. 1. Parameters varied in the tests. 1.3. Tests with a set of non-persistent joints

Jamil [14] tested biaxial models with a single set of

(as in the well known Hoek and Brown failure criterion);
parallel non-persistent joints. He mostly varied the
analytical solutions (as in Jenning’s criterion); numerical
continuity factor (k) the spacing between joints (d) and
studies (using available commercial software), or labora-
the orientation of the joints with respect to the principal
tory tests. Laboratory tests are an attractive procedure
stress axes (b) (Fig. 1), maintaining a joint step angle (g) of
because they can expose failure mechanisms that may not
901 in all tests. Cording and Jamil [15] identified four
become evident by other means. Laboratory tests are also
modes of failure for non-persistent joints, depending on the
useful to calibrate analytical solutions and numerical
geometry of the joint system and the confining stress:
studies. Some previous results obtained with different test
sliding on a single plane, stepping, multiplane stepping, and
arrangements are summarized in the following paragraphs.
shearing through intact rock. They found that the strength
along a stepped joint failure, including the tensile strength
1.1. Tests with assemblages of blocks
of the intervening rock bridge, could be approximated by
the expression
Some early attempts to evaluate the strength of rock
masses with non-persistent joints have consisted in testing d
t ¼ st þ sn tan ðfj þ iÞ, (4)
assemblages of blocks distributed in such a way as to produce Lj
non-persistent joints [2–7]. The results shed light on the
behavior of rock masses, but the geometry of the joints tested where st is the tensile strength of the intact material, i is the
was unrealistic. At high confinement stress (s2/sc40.07, equivalent dilation angle, and fj the residual friction angle
where sc is the unconfined compressive strength of the intact of the non-cohesive joint. As an alternative, the following
material), failure occurred through a planar surface, partly equation presents the same criterion in the plane of (s1, s2)
along the joints and partly through the intervening intact 2st =sc d s2
material. At low confinement stress, which may be more þ ð1 þ tanðfj þ iÞ= cotðb  iÞÞ
s1 sin 2ðb  iÞLj sc
relevant for slope stability analysis, the blocks could rotate, ¼ . (5)
sc 1  tanðfj þ iÞ tanðb  iÞ
resulting in stress concentration and strength reduction.
To study the influence of the intermediate principal Results of other tests with a non-persistent joint set are
stress on the strength of an anisotropic material, Reik reported by various other investigators [16–19].
and Zacas [8] performed true triaxial compression tests Some methods used in practice to evaluate the strength
on 130-cm-high samples with a 60-cm2 cross-section. These of rock masses with several sets of non-persistent joints use
samples were assemblies of small blocks (4  6  10 cm an approach based on Eqs. (1) and (4), and an automatic
each) prepared with an artificial material. The tests studied search procedure to find the path of least resistance. As
the change in the compressive strength of the samples as a indicated previously, these approaches may fail to recog-
function of two parameters: the orientation of the joints nize the development of progressive failure or of different
and the intermediate principal stress. They showed that the failure modes.
influence of the intermediate principal stress is small when The present paper describes the result of experimental
this stress is parallel to the strike of the main join set. studies carried out at the Pontificia Universidad Católica
de Chile on model materials with non-persistent joints.
1.2. Tests with truly non-persistent joints The tests have confirmed the failure modes identified
by Cording and Jamil [15], and permitted the detection
A laboratory method of creating non-persistent joints of a failure mode that involves the rotation of blocks that
can be achieved by inserting thin metallic sheets in a are formed when the intervening rock bridges fail by
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coalescence of wing fractures. This failure mode, as the one values quoted for typical rocks, the axial strain at failure
described by Sagong and Bobet [20], cannot be explained coincides with typical values.
by Jennings’ criterion (Eq. (1)) or by that of Cording and Direct shear tests and normal load tests on 5  4  4 cm
Jamil (Eq. (4)). square samples indicated the following properties of
closed joints: maximum cohesion cj peak ¼ 0.042 MPa,
2. Testing material and equipment joint friction angle fj peak ¼ 331, and residual friction
angle of the joint fj residual ¼ 331. Thus, except for the
2.1. Model material E50/sci ratio, the model material properties comply with
the non-dimensional ratios proposed by Heuer and
Ideally, the model material should have mechanical Hendron [21].
properties that reproduce, to the proper scale, the behavior
2.2. Sample preparation
of intact rock. The model material used in this research is a
mixture of fine sand, common cement and distilled water,
Biaxial tests were run on samples that were 300-mm-
mixed in proportion of 4000/1000/1235 by weight.
high, 150-mm-wide, and 50-mm-thick. These samples were
Uniaxial and triaxial compression tests made with this
prepared by pouring the mortar mixture into a mold, and
mixture gave the following results: unconfined compressive
inserting 0.1-mm-thick and 5-mm-wide steel sheets into the
strength sci at 14 days ¼ 3.46 MPa, axial strain at failure
mixture. The steel sheets were attached to an external
ef ¼ 0.45%, cohesion ci ¼ 0.86 MPa, peak angle of friction
frame provided with steel bars that could be positioned at
fi ¼ 371, tensile strength st ¼ 0.45 MPa, tangent modulus
different angles and spacing so that a variety of joint
of deformation at s ¼ 0.45  sci E50 ¼ 2400 MPa, and
geometries could be produced. Joints with aperture of
Poisson’s ratio n ¼ 0.16.
0.1 mm were obtained by removing the steel sheets after
As shown by its uniaxial compression strength vs. axial
24 h of curing, while joints with aperture of 0.0 mm were
strain curve (Fig. 2), the model material has a rather ductile
obtained by removing the sheets after 2 h of curing. The
behavior: although the ratio E50/sc is above the range of
test specimens were cured for 14 days in a room with
controlled temperature and humidity. The different models
1.2 thus prepared had the parameter values shown in Table 1
Marble Model Material and the geometries shown in Fig. 3.
2.3. Test setup
0.8 Norite
A uniform load was applied to the sample, through a

0.6 Sandstone
pyramid of simply supported steel platens, by hydraulic
jacks reacting against a steel frame (Fig. 4). The load was
measured with load cells, and the displacement by two
0.2 axial and two transverse LVDTs (displacement transdu-
cers). Fifty-three specimens were tested; the intermediate
0 principal stress ranged from 0 to 0.2 times the intact
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 material compressive strength. Control samples of each
ε (%)
mix (5-cm-diameter and 10-cm-high cylinders) were pro-
Fig. 2. Comparison of non-dimensional stress vs. strain curves of model duced, which allowed us to control the compressive
material, with Norite, Sandstone, Quarzite [24] and Marble [25]. strength of the intact material used in every specimen.

Table 1
Joint geometries and confining stresses of the samples tested

Serie Lj (cm) Lr (cm) d (cm) g1 b1 e (cm) s2/sc

1 5 2 2 — — 0.01 0.000 0.050 0.169

2 90 45 0.000 0.026 0.040 0.050 0.096
3 135 15 0.000 0.043 0.047 0.103 0.169
4 30 0.000 0.017 0.023 0.053 0.091 0.103 0.169
5 45 0.000 0.040 0.064 0.126
6 60 0.000 0.011 0.025 0.035 0.060 0.077 0.079 0.176 0.199
7 4 117 0.000
8 3 127 45 0.000 0.011 0.020 0.039 0.058 0.086
9 2 2 112.5 0.000 0.030 0.055 0.075 0.100
10 135 0.00 0.000 0.042 0.066 0.123
11 2.5 1 1 90 0.01 0.000 0.099
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3. Test results and experimental observations high stress concentration. The initial spreading of these
fissures, or wing cracks, is practically perpendicular to the
In agreement with Griffith’s criterion, when a sample direction of the joint. The propagation of the cracks is
containing non-persistent joints is loaded in compression, influenced by the geometry of the neighboring joints, as
new fissures are created at the tip of the joints subjected to defined by Fig. 1. Similar failure modes can be defined,
depending on the way in which the new cracks spread until
the model collapses.

3.1. Failure modes

We observed three failure modes in the test program:

S1 S2 S3 S4 S5 S6 failure through a plane, stepped failure, and rotation of
new blocks (Fig. 5). Some samples failed by a combination
of rotation with stepped failure, a mode that can be
considered included in the previous three modes.
Failure through a plane results when the failure surface
propagates along a joint set and the intervening rock
bridges, developing a single plane with the same dip as the
joints. Failure starts at the joint tips and propagates
S7 S8 S9 S 10 S 11
through the rock bridge until it reaches another colineal
Fig. 3. Joint geometries tested. joint tip.
Stepped failure occurs by sliding on a joint segment and
stepping between adjacent parallel joints (Fig. 6). Failure
of the intact material starts at the joint tip and propagates
quasi perpendicularly to the joint until it is connected with
another wing crack coming from the joint tip of a parallel
system. The resulting failure surface has an average slope
angle cf ¼ c1+Dc, where c1 is the dip of the joint system
and Dc ¼ tan1 (d/Lj).
Rotation of new blocks takes place when the joints are
relatively close and aE 901, so that all the joint tips are
nearly along the same line. The wing cracks of parallel
joints coalesce and the model fractures into a series of
blocks that can rotate. Failure usually spreads in a ductile
way. At large strains, the blocks tend to slide into a
multiple stepping mechanism, which can be described as an
interaction between rotation and stepped failure. However,
the strength of the model is controlled by the rotation
mode, and is much smaller than the strength for stepped
Fig. 4. Loading frame and sample set up (plan view). failure.

July 6
β = 15

Fig. 5. Observed failure modes: (a) through a plane, series 3, s2 =sc ¼ 0:00; (b) stepped, series 2, s2/sc ¼ 0.00; (c) rotation of new blocks series 5,
s2/sc ¼ 0.00; (d) interaction between rotation and stepped, series 8, s2/sc ¼ 0.01.
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A failure plane with the strike of s2, and developing s2, all underwent brittle failure at a strain of approximately
through the intact material, was observed at high 0.3–0.4% (Fig. 8a).
intermediate confining stress. It defines the upper limit of The only series to fail through a plane was that with
the strength envelope for the model material under biaxial steep joints (Series 3 with b ¼ 151, Fig. 8c). The lower angle
load conditions (s3 ¼ 0). b of 151 made it easier for a failure surface through the
rock bridge to develop on the same plane of the joints than
3.2. Behavior of rock models on the longer surface failure needed to jump from one
system of joints to the adjacent one. Failure took place at
The 11 series presented here correspond to different small strains (less than 1%) and was usually brittle. As the
combinations of persistence k, spacing Lr/d, dip b, and intermediate principal stress s2 increased, the failure
angle of overlap g. Each series included several samples, occurred through the intact material, but the modulus of
each with a different value of the intermediate principal deformation of the ‘‘rock mass’’ did not change much.
stress s2. These test variables all strongly influenced the Stepped failure was observed in Series 2, 9, and 11, with
model failure (Table 2). b ¼ 451 and g close to 901 (Figs. 8b, i and k). For Series 2 and
The strength of the prismatic samples was approximately 11, the non-dimensional ratios k and Lr/d are the same,
10–20% high than the strength of cylindrical specimens although joint dimensions are different. As expected, these two
tested to check the intact material strength (Fig. 7). The series yield comparable results. The failure strain usually
modulus of deformation of the intact prismatic samples ranged from 0.5% to 1.0%. As the intermediate principal
was quite similar to the modulus of the intact material, E50. stress s2 increased, the failure mode changed to failure through
The three prismatic samples with no joints (Series 1), a plane and, eventually, to failure through the intact material.
tested at different values of the intermediate principal stress However, the failure strain was always larger than in the cases
of intact material and of failure through a single plane.
The remaining series (4–10) failed by rotation, a failure
mode characterized by lower strengths and larger failure
strains than either planar or stepped failure. They all had a
tip-to-tip joint angle a of 901, with a tip-to-toe angle g
ranging from 117 to 1351. Our tests did not disclose the full
range of a and g combinations where rotational failure
mode could occur. The stress–strain curve of these series
shows an abrupt change of slope, generally at strains
smaller than 0.2%, coincident with the development of
wing cracks at the joint tips. As the loading proceeds, the
wing fracture originating at the tip of a joint propagates
without stepping until it connects with the tip of another
joint. As a result, the rock mass becomes fractured into
several blocks that can now rotate and slide, leading to low
Fig. 6. Stepped failure. Average dip of the failure surface. strength and low modulus values. In fact, in some of the

Table 2
Dominant failure modes

Serie Lj (cm) Lr (cm) d (cm) g1 b1 a Dominant failure mode

1 5 2 2 1 — Intact material (I) for 0.00os2/sco0.20

2 5 2 2 90 45 45 Stepped failure (S) for 0.00os2/sco0.04
Planar Failure (P) for 0.05os2/sco0.10
3 5 2 2 135 15 90 Planar failure (P) for 0.00os2/sco0.10
Intact Material for s2/sc40.17
4 5 2 2 135 30 90 Rotation failure (R) for 0.00os2/sco0.17
5 5 2 2 135 45 90 Rotation failure (R) for 0.00os2/sco0.13
6 5 2 2 135 60 90 Rotation failure (R) for 0.00os2/sco0.08
Intact Material for s2/sc40.18
7 5 2 4 117 89,5 Rotation failure (R) for s2/sc ¼ 0.00
8 5 3 4 127 45 89,8 Rotation failure (R) for 0.00os2/sco0.04
Intact Material for s2/sc40.06
9 5 2 2 113 59,6 Stepped failure (S) for 0.00os2/sco0.08
Intact Material for s2/sc40.10
10 5 2 2 135 90 Rotation failure (R) for 0.00os2/sco0.12
11 2.5 1 1 90 45 Stepped failure (S) for s2/sc ¼ 0.00
Planar failure (P) for s2/sc ¼ 0.10
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tests, the model strength was equal to the strength that 4.1. Failure envelopes
would result along a single joint.
We compared the strength of the laboratory samples
4. Analysis of results with the shear strength of a joint and with previously
published failure criteria for non-persistent joints, such as
The failure mode and the strength of rock models with those of Jennings [1] and of Cording and Jamil [15].
non-persistent joints were found to depend on the Fig. 9 summarizes the strength at failure for g ¼ 1351
geometry of the joints on the s2/sc ratio and the strength and three values of b (451,301,151). In addition to the
of the joint material. experimental points indicating the failure stresses, each






0.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.0
ε (%)

Fig. 7. Strength of prismatic and cylindrical specimens.

Fig. 8. Principal stress difference vs. axial strain curves. (a) series 1, (b) series 2, (c) series 3, (d) series 4, (e) series 5 and (f) series 6, (g) series 7, (h) series 8,
(i) series 9, (j) Series 10, (k) series 11. R, Rotation failure mode; P, sliding on a single plane; S, stepping failure mode, I, Shearing through intact material.
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Fig. 8. (Continued)

panel includes three lines: the upper line represents the not influence much the strength of the models within the
strength of the intact sample in the (s1, s2) plane, according range tested. In these tests, b ¼ 451 and 451pap601. The
to the Kim and Lade [22] criterion; the intermediate line results are in agreement with those reported by Cording
represents the failure strength of the fractured sample and Jamil [15]: step failure, dominant at low confining
according to Jennings’ criterion; and the lower line stresses, changed to planar failure and finally to failure
represents the strength for a single joint of inclination. through the intact material as the confining stress
For b ¼ 451 (Fig. 9a), the sample fails by rotation and the increased. Although series 2 and 11 have the same non-
model strength is equal to the residual strength along a dimensional parameters, the length of the joints and their
single (lower line). For b ¼ 301 (Fig. 9b), the sample fails spacing are smaller for series 11 (Table 1). In fact, a closer
by rotation and the strength falls somewhere between the look at the experimental results (Fig. 11) shows that series
strength along a single joint (lower line) and Jennings’ 11 is slightly stronger than series 2. The slight increase in
envelope (intermediate line). For b ¼ 151 (Fig. 9c), the strength can be explained by the Fracture Mechanics
sample fails through a plane connecting several non- Theory, which indicates that for small fracture lengths
persistent joints. Surprisingly, the strength increases correspond small values of the Stress Intensity Factors (KI
dramatically and it becomes higher than the strength and KII). This lead to higher rock mass strength.
predicted by Jennings’ simple model. We believe that the Within the geometries tested, the strength of models
strength is due to higher normal stresses on the rock failing by rotational mode was most significantly influ-
bridges than predicted by the simple model. This hypoth- enced by the angle of inclination b of the major principal
esis is supported by finite-element analysis: for an open stress with respect to the joint system (Fig. 12). From
joint, the maximum normal stress computed along the rock this figure can be obtained the model friction angle,
bridge resulted in more than four times the average normal witch increase from series 4 to 5 to 6 and to 8 (respectively,
stress computed with Jennings’ hypothesis (Fig. 17). 401, 401, 451 and 541). On the other hand, the cohesion
The results of series 2, 9 and 11 fall fairly well within the does not show a clear trend. The c/sci value is between
same envelope (Fig. 10), indicating that the angle g does 0.014 and 0.028.
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1.50 1.50 1.50

1 I
1 1
1.25 1.25 1.25
4 3
1.00 3 1.00 3 1.00
2 P


0.75 0.75 0.75 2
R 2
0.50 0.50 4 0.50 P
0.25 0.25 0.25
R R β=45 RR β=30 β=15
0.00 0.00 0.00
0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20 0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20 0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20
σ2/σc σ2/σc σ2/σc

Joint parameters: k=0.71, Lj=5cm, Lr=2cm, d=2cm, γ=135˚, φj=33°

1 Intact Material
2 Fracture Strength
3 Jenning’s Criteria
4 Best linear fit
Experimental Data
R: Rotation Failure Mode
P: Sliding on a Single Plane
S: Stepping Failure Mode
I : Shearing Through Intact Material

Fig. 9. Change in strength and failure mode with the orientation of the major principal stress.

1.50 1.40 1
1.20 Symbol Lj/e Model
1.25 P+S
1.00 2

1.00 0.80 250

S P 0.60

0.75 4 2 1 Intact Material 0.40

S 2 Fracture Strength
4 Fracture Strength 0.20 S 500
0.50 S P S
S Experimental Data 0.00
0.25 S P : Sliding on a Single Plane 0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20
S : Stepping Failure Mode σ2/σc
0.00 1 Intact Material
0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20 2 Fracture Strength
σ2/σc P : Sliding on a Single Plane
k=0.71, Lr/d=1, β=45, γ=90 & 112.5, φj=33 S : Stepping Failure Mode

Fig. 11. Effect of joint aperture ‘‘e’’ on the strength of the samples.
Fig. 10. Strength envelope for step failure, k ¼ 0,71; Lr/d ¼ 1.0; b ¼ 451;
Comparison between series 2 (Lj/e ¼ 500) and series 11 (Lj/e ¼ 250).
k ¼ 0.71, Lr/d ¼ 1.0, b ¼ 45, g ¼ 90, e ¼ 0.1 mm (joint aperture).

4.2. Effect of joint cohesion and joint stiffness importantly, the magnitude of normal and shear stiffness
of the joint. Finite-element analysis indicate that an
Series 5 and 10 show the influence of joint cohesion over increase of normal and shear stiffness reduces the tensile
the model strength. For a joint cohesion approximately stress at the joint tips, thus increasing the strength of the
0.05 times the intact material cohesion and a joint model.
continuity factor of 0.71, the strength of the model mass
increases approximately by 0.4 times the intact material 4.3. Anisotropic strength behavior
strength (Fig. 13).
The strength increases because of two effects: an increase The effect on the strength of the models of the
in the cj/sc ratio from 0 to 0.012 and, even more orientation b of the major principal stress is further
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1.50 1.50 1.50

1 1 1
1.25 1.25 1.25
1.00 3 1.00 3 1.00


0.75 R 0.75 0.75
2 R R
0.50 4 0.50 4 0.50
R 2 R
0.25 R 0.25 R 0.25 R
0.00 0.00 0.00
0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20 0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20 0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20
σ2/σc σ2/σc σ2/σc
Serie 4. k=0.71,Lr/d=1,β=30,γ =135 Serie 5. k=0.71,Lr/d=1,β=45,γ =135 Serie 6. k=0.71,Lr/d=1,β=60,γ =135

1 Intact Material
1.25 Series Properties
2 Fracture Strength
3 Series Nφ φ σ1/σci c/σci
3 Jenning’s Criteria
4 R+I 4 Best linear fit
4 4.56 40 0.078 0.018

0.75 2
R+I Experimental Data
5 4.56 40 0.058 0.014
R: Rotation Failure Mode
0.50 P: Sliding on a Single Plane 6 5.93 45 0.137 0.028
S: Stepping Failure Mode
0.25 R+S I : Shearing Through Intact Material 7 9.48 54 0.116 0.019
0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20
Serie 8.k=0.63,Lr/d=1,β=45,γ=127

Fig. 12. Strength envelopes for rotational failure mode.


1.00 R

0.50 R R R

0.25 R
0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15 0.20
Experimental data closed joint
Experimental data open joint
1 Intact Material
2 Fracture Strength (open joint)
3 Fracture Strength (closed joint)
R: Rotation Failure Mode
k=0.71, Lr/d=1.0, β=45 and γ =135.
Open joints, series 5, cj= 0.000 [MPa], φj=33°, kn = 16 [MPa]/cm and kt = 0 [MPa]/cm.
Closed joints, series 10, cj=0.042 [MPa], φj=33°, kn = 16 [MPa]/cm and kt = 330 [MPa]/cm.

Fig. 13. Effect of joint cohesion on the strength.

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illustrated in a plot of s1/sc vs. b (Fig. 14). This plot joints. To improve our understanding of the interaction
compares the strength of series 3–6, and shows curves among adjacent joints, we carried out a numerical study
obtained from the linear envelopes in Figs. 9 and 12. It with the software PHASE2 [23], assuming elastic behavior.
shows three different failure modes. (a) Planar failure is This study estimated the external stress field needed to
observed for b ¼ 151. The intact material shear strength induce joint closure and that needed to obtain tensile
and the joint shear strength, mobilized simultaneously, failure at the joint tips, and studied the normal stress
result in high strengths. We assume that the same failure distribution along the rock bridges for cases in which the
mode would prevail for smaller values of bU (b) Rotational joints have a low inclination with respect to the major
failure, observed for b between 301 and 601. The strength is principal stress. It covered two cases, g ¼ 901 and g ¼ 1351,
reduced and the failure is more ductile. (c) Transitional each time with Lj ¼ 5 cm, Lr ¼ 2 cm, d ¼ 2 cm, and
failure, assumed for b between 151 and 301. e ¼ 0.1 mm (open joint). Its main results are shown in
Figs. 16 and 17.
4.4. Estimation of the failure mode of non-persistent joint The major principal stress that produces joint closure
systems decreased as b increased and did not change significantly as
s2/sc varied from 0 to 0.15. An increase of g from 901 to 1351
Knowledge of the possible failure mode allows one to resulted in a closure stress increase of approximately 50%.
forecast whether the failure will be ductile or fragile. In contrast, the major principal stress that causes tensile
Cording and Jamil [15] found that stepped failure occurs as failure at the joint tip did not change significantly as g
b and the Lr/d ratio increase. Sagong and Bobet [20] also increased from 901 to 1351 but did change as s2/sc varied
found a correlation between geometrical parameters and from 0 to 0.15. For s2/sc ¼ 0, the stress was also
failure modes. As our tests show, a plot of (yb) vs. Lr/d independent of b, but for s2/sc ¼ 0.15, it depended
(where y ¼ 1801g) serves as an empirical procedure to strongly on b.
discriminate between failure modes. This plot (Fig. 15) The numerical analyses show that the normal stresses are
builds on experimental evidence from our research in not uniform along the rock bridge. Compressive stresses
addition to evidence found by Jamil [14], and includes data are observed for sh equal to 0.3, with high stress
for joint persistence greater than 0.63 and b larger than 301. concentrations at the joint tips. In these cases the average
For b less than 301, the samples always failed through a value of the stress normal to the rock joint was 2.8 times
plane. The plot is similar to that of Sagong and Bobet [20], larger than the uniform value computed with the simple
but it covers more cases and is a better predictor. hypothesis of Jennings (Fig. 17).

5. Numerical analysis 6. Conclusions

The stress distribution near the tip of a joint depends, Our laboratory tests on artificial rock models with non-
among other factors, on the presence and location of other persistent joints illustrate the large anisotropy in the

Fig. 14. Anisotropic behavior of model specimens with non-persistent joints.

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80 σ1
70 P P d
SyP β
50 Lr σ2
P S&P 2 θ
40 S
θ−β S&P s
30 3
20 P+S
10 MS 4 Failure Mode
R+S P : Planar
0 R+S R
S : Stepping
-10 R : Rotation
R P+S : Mixed mode P y S
R+S : Mixed mode R y S
0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.0
MS : Multi stepping

Zone Failure Mode

1 Sliding on a single plane
2 Transition zone between sliding on a single plane and stepping failure mode.
if σ2/σc>0.04 planar failure
if σ2/σc<0.04 stepping
3 Stepping
4 Transition zone between stepping and rotation
5 Rotation
Note : If β<22.5 Planar failure

Fig. 15. Summary of failure modes observed in the tests and suggested boundaries. Plot valid for k40.63 and s2/sc o0.20.

1.0 γ=90 1.0 γ=135

Joint closure
0.8 0.8
Joint closure


0.6 0.6

0.4 0.4

0.2 Tensile fracture 0.2 Tensile fracture

0.0 0.0
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
β β

σ2/σc Symbol
Tensile fracture
Joint closure

Fig. 16. Major principal stress needed to induce tensile failure at the joint tips and to achieve joint closure.

strength of a fractured rock mass. The stress orientation Low confining pressures when the joint step angle is
relative to the orientation of the joints and the value of the approximately 901 can induce a step failure along an
confining stress resulted in different failure modes. average slope angle cf ¼ c1+Dc, where c1 is the dip of the
Samples with steeply dipping non-persistent joints and joint system and Dc ¼ tan1(d/Lj).
joint step angle larger than 901 underwent planar failure. Wing fractures and tensile failure propagating in the
The strength of some samples turned out to be larger than rock bridge between parallel adjacent fractures can
the strength predicted by a simple model because the significantly reduce the strength of the rock mass. As a
normal stress on the rock bridges is several times larger result, the model divides into a series of individual blocks
than the stress assumed by the simple model. that can rotate, leading to a toppling or ‘‘rotational
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M. Prudencio, M. Van Sint Jan / International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 44 (2007) 890–902 901

σv=1 Kg/cm2
Average normal stress on the rock bridge
σn(kg/cm2) for σv= 1 kg/cm2
From From
σh= 0.3 Kg/cm2 (kg/cm2)
Numerical Jennng’s
Analysis Hypothesis
0.3 0.97 0.35

Area of study

2) 2)
g/cm g/cm
σ n (k σ n (k








L r (c


Stress distribution from Jenning’s hypothesis

Fig. 17. Normal stress distribution along the rock bridge according to the numerical analysis and according to Jennings’ hypothesis.

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