Thermal Stressing of Volcanic Rock: Microcracking and Crack Closure Monitored Through Acoustic Emission, Ultrasonic Velocity, and Thermal Expansion

L. Griffiths, M. J. Heap, O. Lengliné, P. Baud, J. Schmittbuhl, H. A. Gilg

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Abstract

Microcracking due to thermal stresses affects the mechanical and flow properties of rocks, which is significant for thermally dynamic environments such as volcanoes and geothermal reservoirs. Compared with other crustal rocks like granite, volcanic rocks have a complex and variable response to temperature; it remains unclear how thermal microcracks form and how they are affected by temperature. We heated and cooled samples of low-porosity basalts containing different amounts of microcracks and a porous andesite over three cycles, whilst monitoring microstructural changes by acoustic emission (AE) monitoring and measurement of P-wave velocity (vP; up to 450°C) and thermal expansion coefficient (TEC; up to 700°C). During the second and third cycles, the TEC was positive throughout and the rate of detected AE was low. In contrast to studies on granite, we measured a strong and reversible increase in vP with increasing temperature (by 15%–40% at 450°C), which we interpret as due to microcrack closure. During the first cycle, AE and vP measurements indicated thermal microcracking within the andesite and the basalt with a low initial microcrack density. For these samples, strong inflexions in the TEC indicated stress relaxation during heating, preceding significant thermal microcracking during cooling. The basalt with a high initial microcrack density underwent little microcracking throughout all cycles. Our results and a review of the literature relate the initial microstructure to the occurrence of thermal microcracking and explore the potentially significant influence of temperature on volcanic rock properties.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023JB027766
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Volume129
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Keywords

  • acoustic emissions
  • andesite
  • basalt
  • thermal expansion
  • thermal microcracking
  • wave velocity

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