New granular rock-analogue materials for simulation of multi-scale fault and fracture processes

Luigi Massaro, Jurgen Adam, Elham Jonade, Yasuhiro Yamada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, we present a new granular rock-analogue material (GRAM) with a dynamic scaling suitable for the simulation of fault and fracture processes in analogue experiments. Dynamically scaled experiments allow the direct comparison of geometrical, kinematical and mechanical processes between model and nature. The geometrical scaling factor defines the model resolution, which depends on the density and cohesive strength ratios of model material and natural rocks. Granular materials such as quartz sands are ideal for the simulation of upper crustal deformation processes as a result of similar nonlinear deformation behaviour of granular flow and brittle rock deformation. We compared the geometrical scaling factor of common analogue materials applied in tectonic models, and identified a gap in model resolution corresponding to the outcrop and structural scale (1–100 m). The proposed GRAM is composed of quartz sand and hemihydrate powder and is suitable to form cohesive aggregates capable of deforming by tensile and shear failure under variable stress conditions. Based on dynamical shear tests, GRAM is characterized by a similar stress–strain curve as dry quartz sand, has a cohesive strength of 7.88 kPa and an average density of 1.36 g cm−3. The derived geometrical scaling factor is 1 cm in model = 10.65 m in nature. For a large-scale test, GRAM material was applied in strike-slip analogue experiments. Early results demonstrate the potential of GRAM to simulate fault and fracture processes, and their interaction in fault zones and damage zones during different stages of fault evolution in dynamically scaled analogue experiments.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalGeological Magazine
Early online date27 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Dec 2021


  • Analogue modelling
  • granular materials
  • Scaling
  • Rock mechanics
  • fault damage zone

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