A two-scale model for sheared fault gouge: Competition between macroscopic disorder and local viscoplasticity

A. E. Elbanna, J. M. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We develop a model for sheared gouge layers that accounts for the local increase in temperature at the grain contacts during sliding. We use the shear transformation zone theory, a statistical thermodynamic theory, to describe irreversible macroscopic plastic deformations due to local rearrangements of the gouge particles. We track the temperature evolution at the grain contacts using a one-dimensional heat diffusion equation. At low temperatures, the strength of the asperities is limited by the flow strength, as predicted by dislocation creep models. At high temperatures, some of the constituents of the grains may melt leading to the degradation of the asperity strength. Our model predicts a logarithmic rate dependence of the steady state shear stress in the quasistatic regime. In the dense flow regime the frictional strength decreases rapidly with increasing slip rate due to thermal softening at the granular interfaces. The transient response following a step in strain rate includes a direct effect and a following evolution effect, both of which depend on the magnitude and direction of the velocity step. In addition to frictional heat, the energy budget includes an additional energy sink representing the fraction of external work consumed in increasing local disorder. The model links low-speed and high-speed frictional response of gouge layers and provides an essential ingredient for multiscale modeling of earthquake ruptures with enhanced coseismic weakening. Key Points Augment STZ theory with temperature depedent viscoplastic contact strength Investigate steady state and transient friction response of gouge Fit Sone and Shimamoto (2009) high-speed friction data

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4841-4859
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • flash heating
  • friction
  • gouge
  • shear transformation zone theory
  • viscoplasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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