Effect of Fluid Chemistry on the Interfacial Composition, Adhesion, and Frictional Response of Calcite Single Crystals—Implications for Injection-Induced Seismicity

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While it has been shown that the mechanical properties and the reactivity of carbonate-bearing rocks may be influenced by the chemical composition of the fluids, little is known about how the fluid composition affects their frictional response. Here, we have used atomic force microscopy to investigate the frictional characteristics of single calcite crystals in calcium carbonate saturated solutions and in two brines, NaCl and CaCl2, at a wide range of geologically relevant concentrations. Surface forces were measured to determine the ion-specific composition of the confined fluid films and the adhesion between the confining surfaces. The effect of fluid chemistry on calcite's (dynamic) frictional response significantly depends on the normal stress. At low stresses, the confined fluid film lubricates the single-asperity contact efficiently, resulting in low friction coefficients, especially in the case of NaCl solutions. When the pressure solution of calcite is triggered at sufficiently high stress, a significant reduction of the friction coefficient was observed, and in this case, CaCl2 solutions were shown to promote this frictional weakening more significantly than NaCl. This is the first experimental investigation of the ion-specific frictional characteristics of calcite at the level of a single-asperity contact. The presence of infiltrated fluids in carbonate faults may also play a critical role in fault dynamics. Hence, the results of this nanoscale study are extrapolated to carbonate fault friction in the presence of infiltrated fluids, and they contribute to advance our understanding of induced seismicity at geological scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5607-5628
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019



  • Atomic Force Microscopy
  • Calcite
  • Calcite-fluid interface
  • Fault lubrication
  • Friction
  • Pressure solution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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