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Authors: Niemeijer, A.* 
Di Toro, G.* 
Nielsen, S.* 
Di Felice, F.* 
Title: Frictional melting of gabbro under extreme experimental conditions of normal stress, acceleration, and sliding velocity
Issue Date: 16-Jul-2011
Series/Report no.: /116 (2011)
DOI: 10.1029/2010JB008181
Keywords: friction
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.04. Geology::04.04.06. Rheology, friction, and structure of fault zones 
Abstract: With the advent of high-velocity shear apparatus, several experimental studies have been performed in recent years, improving our understanding of the evolution of fault strength during seismic slip. However, these experiments were conducted under relatively low normal stress (<20 MPa) and using small cylindrical samples where a large gradient in slip velocity exists across the sliding surface. Given the above limitations, the extrapolation of these experimental results to natural conditions is not trivial. Here we present results from an experimental study on gabbroic rocks using a newly developed rotary shear apparatus capable of reaching higher normal stress (up to 50 MPa) on ring-shaped samples (30/50 mm internal/external diameter) and allowing precise control of the imposed slip velocity function. The results confirm that steady state shear stress during the melt-lubricated phase of the experiment depends on normal stress in the form of a power law equation as predicted by theoretical models. However, the exponent appears closer to 0.5, contrary to the theoretical prediction of 0.25. We observe no systematic dependence of shear stress on acceleration, but increasing deceleration drastically decreases the recovery of friction during final slip. We find that the slip-weakening distance decreases inversely with increasing normal stress, in agreement with theoretical considerations, and decreases with increasing slip rate. Extrapolation of the slip-weakening distance to natural conditions predicts a slip velocity for ancient seismic events of 0.3-1 m/s when compared with field estimates. These values compare well with seismological estimates.
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