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Mechanical behaviour of fluid-lubricated faults

Cornelio, Chiara; Spagnuolo, Elena; Di Toro, Giulio; Nielsen, Stefan; Violay, Marie

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Chiara Cornelio

Elena Spagnuolo

Giulio Di Toro

Marie Violay


Fluids are pervasive in fault zones cutting the Earth's crust; however, the effect of fluid viscosity on fault mechanics is mainly conjectured by theoretical models. We present friction experiments performed on both dry and fluid-permeated silicate and carbonate bearing-rocks, at normal effective stresses up to 20 MPa, with a slip-rate ranging between 10 μm/s and 1 m/s. Four different fluid viscosities were tested. We show that both static and dynamic friction coefficients decrease with viscosity and that dynamic friction depends on the dimensionless Sommerfeld number (S) as predicted by the elastohydrodynamic-lubrication theory (EHD).Under favourable conditions (depending on the fluid viscosity (η), co-seismic slip-rate (V), fault geometry (L/H02) and earthquake nucleation depth (∝σeff)), EHD might be an effective weakening mechanism during natural and induced earthquakes. However, at seismic slip-rate, the slip weakening distance (Dc) increases markedly for a range of fluid viscosities expected in the Earth, potentially favouring slow-slip rather than rupture propagation for small to moderate earthquakes.


Cornelio, C., Spagnuolo, E., Di Toro, G., Nielsen, S., & Violay, M. (2019). Mechanical behaviour of fluid-lubricated faults. Nature Communications, 10, Article 1274.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 26, 2019
Online Publication Date Mar 20, 2019
Publication Date Mar 20, 2019
Deposit Date Feb 28, 2019
Publicly Available Date Mar 22, 2019
Journal Nature Communications
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Article Number 1274


Published Journal Article (899 Kb)

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