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Changes in anelasticity and grain boundary processes with stress cycling in semibrittle salt-rocks
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  • Jihui Ding,
  • Frederick Michael Chester,
  • Judith S. Chester,
  • Xianda Shen,
  • Chloé Arson
Jihui Ding
Stanford University

Corresponding Author:jihuiding@gmail.com

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Frederick Michael Chester
Texas A&M University
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Judith S. Chester
Texas A & M University
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Xianda Shen
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Chloé Arson
Georgia Institute of Technology
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The coupled operation of fracture, diffusion, and intracrystalline-plastic micromechanisms during semibrittle deformation of rock is directly relevant to understanding crustal processes such as earthquake rupture at the base of the seismogenic zone and failure of salt caverns for energy storage. Triaxial stress-cycling experiments are used to investigate elastic-plastic and viscoelastic behaviors in two synthetic salt-rocks deformed at room temperature and low confinement. During semibrittle flow at high differential stress, porous, granular, work-hardened samples deform predominantly by grain boundary sliding and opening accompanied by minor intragranular cracking and dislocation glide. In contrast, fully annealed, near-zero porosity samples deform at lower differential stress by dislocation glide, grain-boundary sliding and opening accompanied by minor intragranular cracking. During high-stress cycling and semibrittle flow, grain boundary sliding is predominantly frictional; but, associated dispersal of water previously trapped in fluid inclusions can activate fluid-assisted diffusional sliding along grain boundaries at low strain rates. Young’s modulus and Poisson’s ratio are largely controlled by the behavior of closed grain boundaries. Grain boundary sliding accommodated by fluid-assisted diffusion leads to nearly complete stress relaxation after semibrittle flow, and in subsequent low-stress cycling both viscoelasticity and pronounced hysteresis are observed. However, such time-dependent effects vanish with grain boundary healing over days-long holds at low differential stress. Experimental results suggest that within the semibrittle regime, high-stress events can lead to significant transient reduction in viscosity and related phenomena.