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Earthquake lubrication and healing explained by amorphous nanosilica

Rowe, CD; Lamothe, K; Rempe, M; Andrews, M; Mitchell, TM; Di Toro, G; White, JC; (2019) Earthquake lubrication and healing explained by amorphous nanosilica. Nature Communications , 10 , Article 320. 10.1038/s41467-018-08238-y. Green open access

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Abstract

During earthquake propagation, geologic faults lose their strength, then strengthen as slip slows and stops. Many slip-weakening mechanisms are active in the upper-mid crust, but healing is not always well-explained. Here we show that the distinct structure and rate-dependent properties of amorphous nanopowder (not silica gel) formed by grinding of quartz can cause extreme strength loss at high slip rates. We propose a weakening and related strengthening mechanism that may act throughout the quartz-bearing continental crust. The action of two slip rate-dependent mechanisms offers a plausible explanation for the observed weakening: thermally-enhanced plasticity, and particulate flow aided by hydrodynamic lubrication. Rapid cooling of the particles causes rapid strengthening, and inter-particle bonds form at longer timescales. The timescales of these two processes correspond to the timescales of post-seismic healing observed in earthquakes. In natural faults, this nanopowder crystallizes to quartz over 10s–100s years, leaving veins which may be indistinguishable from common quartz veins.

Type: Article
Title: Earthquake lubrication and healing explained by amorphous nanosilica
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-08238-y
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-08238-y
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Nanoscale materials, Natural hazards, Structural geology, Tectonics
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Earth Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10080691
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