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Module 7: Planes of weakness in rocks

7.2.10 Joint Friction Angle

During the shear test at constant normal stress, at small displacement specimen
behaves elastically and the shear stress increases linearly with displacement. As the force
resisting movement is overcome, the curve become non-linear and reaches a maximum that
represent peak shear strength of the discontinuity. Thereafter, the stress required to cause
displacement decreases and eventually reaches a constant value termed as the residual shear
Peak shear strength (𝜏𝜏) = c + σ tan ϕ P
Residual shear strength (𝜏𝜏) = σ tan ϕ R
For the residual strength condition, the cohesion is lost once displacement has broken by the
cementing action. The residual friction angle is always less than the peak friction angle
because the shear displacement grinds the minor irregularities on the rock surface and
produces a smoother lower friction surface.
For a planar, clean (no-infilling) discontinuity, the cohesion will be zero and the shear
strength will be defined solely by the friction angle. The friction angle of the rock material is
related to the grains exposed on the fractured surface.
Thus, a fine grained rock and rock with a high mica content aligned parallel to the surface
such as phyllite, will tend to have a low friction angle while, a course grained rock such as
granite will have high friction angle.

Normal stress (σ)

Shear Stress (𝜏𝜏)

Stress (𝜏𝜏)
Normal stress (σ)

Figure 7.14: Normal and shear stress representation of shearing block

Module 7: Planes of weakness in rocks

Peak shear strength

Residual shear strength

Stress (𝜏𝜏)

normal stress

Shear Displacement (δ)

Figure 7.15: Plot between shear displacement versus shear stress

Peak strength
𝜏𝜏 = c + σ tan ϕP
Stress (𝜏𝜏) ϕP
ϕR Residual strength
𝜏𝜏 = σ tan ϕR

Normal Stress (δ)

Figure 7.16: Mohr plots for peak and residual strength

Table 7.4: Typical ranges of friction angle for a variety of rock types

Rock class Friction angle range Typical rocks

Low friction 20-27 Schist, shale

Medium friction 27-34 Sandstone, siltstone

High friction 34-40 Basalt, granite, limestone

Module 7: Planes of weakness in rocks

(ϕ + i)

Shear stress

Normal stress


Normal load

Shear displacement


Figure 7.17: Definition of shear strength of discontinuity surface

𝜏𝜏 'i'


Figure 7.18 : Shearing alone inclined surface

Module 7: Planes of weakness in rocks

𝜏𝜏𝑖𝑖 = 𝜏𝜏𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐 2 𝑖𝑖 − 𝜎𝜎 sin 𝑖𝑖 cos 𝑖𝑖 (7.8)

𝜎𝜎𝑖𝑖 = 𝜎𝜎 𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐 2 𝑖𝑖 + 𝜏𝜏 sin 𝑖𝑖 cos 𝑖𝑖 (7.9)

If the discontinuity surface has zero cohesion

𝜏𝜏𝑖𝑖 = 𝜎𝜎𝑖𝑖 tan ∅ (7.10)

(𝜏𝜏𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐 2 𝑖𝑖 − 𝜎𝜎 sin 𝑖𝑖 cos 𝑖𝑖) = (𝜎𝜎 𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐𝑐 2 𝑖𝑖 + 𝜏𝜏 sin 𝑖𝑖 cos 𝑖𝑖) tan ∅ (7.11)

𝜏𝜏 = 𝜎𝜎 tan(∅ + 𝑖𝑖) (7.12)

Equation for patton's law is valid at low normal stresses where shear displacement is due to
sliding along the inclined surfaces. At higher normal stresses, the strength of the intact
material will be exceeded and the teeth will tend to break off, resulting in a shear strength
behaviour which is more closely related to the intact material strength than to the frictional
characteristics of the surfaces. While Patton’s approach has the merit of being very simple, it
does not reflect the reality that changes in shear strength with increasing normal stress are
gradual rather than abrupt.

First order asperities

2nd order asperities

Figure 7.19 : Different orders of asperities