Tracking time with ricequakes in partially soaked brittle porous media

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Science Advances  12 Oct 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 10, eaat6961
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat6961


When brittle porous media interact with chemically active fluids, they may suddenly crumble. This has reportedly triggered the collapse of rockfill dams, sinkholes, and ice shelves. To study this problem, we use a surrogate experiment for the effect of fluid on rocks and ice involving a column of puffed rice partially soaked in a reservoir of liquid under constant pressure. We disclose localized crushing collapse in the unsaturated region that produces incremental global compaction and loud audible beats. These “ricequakes” repeat perpetually during the experiments and propagate upward through the material. The delay time between consecutive quakes grows linearly with time and is accompanied by creep motion. All those new observations can be explained using a simple chemomechanical model of capillary-driven crushing steps progressing through the micropores.

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