A Caltech Library Service

Combined Experimental and Numerical Study of Spontaneous Dynamic Rupture on Frictional Interfaces


Lu, Xiao (2009) Combined Experimental and Numerical Study of Spontaneous Dynamic Rupture on Frictional Interfaces. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/BGGT-MC04.


The process of spontaneous dynamic frictional sliding along the interface of two elastic solids is of great interest to a number of disciplines in engineering and sciences. Applications include frictional rupture processes in earthquakes, delamination of layered composite materials, and sliding between soft membranes in biological systems. The transient nature of rupture dynamics presents an array of fascinating yet challenging questions, including the nucleation process, the mechanism of interface failure, and the speed and mode of rupture propagation.

This thesis presents such a combined experimental and theoretical study aimed at understanding the conditions for selecting pulse-like vs. crack-like rupture modes and subshear vs. supershear rupture speeds. There are two major contributions in this work. The first one is high-resolution experimental study of the rupture modes on a frictional interface. The study presents first experimental observations of spontaneous pulse-like ruptures in a homogeneous linear-elastic setting that mimics crustal earthquakes, reveals how different rupture modes are selected based on the level of fault prestress, demonstrates that both rupture modes can transition to supershear speeds, and advocates, based on comparison with theoretical studies, importance of velocity-weakening friction for earthquake dynamics. The second major contribution is the numerical modeling of the rupture experiments that reveal the importance of the rupture nucleation mechanism and friction formulations. The modeling of sub-Rayleigh to supershear transition has demonstrated the influence of rupture nucleation mechanism on supershear transition distance, as well as on the mechanism of supershear transition. The modeling of pulse-like to crack-like rupture mode transition has confirmed the necessity of velocity weakening friction for producing pulse-like rupture to match the experimental observations.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:direct supershear transition; earthquake physics; laboratory earthquakes; mechanics of faulting; pulse-like rupture; rupture modes; rupture nucleation mechanism; rupture speed; shear cracks; supershear rupture; velocity-dependent friction
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Awards:Charles D. Babcock Award, 2006, 2008.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Lapusta, Nadia (advisor)
  • Rosakis, Ares J. (advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Rosakis, Ares J. (chair)
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami
  • Knowles, James K.
  • Avouac, Jean-Philippe
  • Lapusta, Nadia
Defense Date:14 October 2008
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-10242008-070701
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:4240
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:11 Nov 2008
Last Modified:26 Nov 2019 19:14

Thesis Files

PDF (Full thesis) - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page