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Laboratory Investigations of Earthquake Dynamics


Xia, Kaiwen (2005) Laboratory Investigations of Earthquake Dynamics. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/WQQX-6Q19.


Earthquake represents one of most destructive geological hazards. In this thesis I will attempt to understand it through controlled laboratory experiments. The earthquake dynamic rupturing process itself is a complicated phenomenon, involving dynamic friction, wave propagation, and heat production. Because controlled experiments can produce results without assumptions needed in theoretical and numerical analysis, the experimental method is thus advantageous over theoretical and numerical methods.

Our laboratory fault is composed of carefully cut photoelastic polymer plates (Homalite-100, Polycarbonate) held together by uniaxial compression. As a unique unit of the experimental design, a controlled exploding wire technique provides the triggering mechanism of laboratory earthquakes. Three important components of real earthquakes (i.e., pre-existing fault, tectonic loading, and triggering mechanism) correspond to and are simulated by frictional contact, uniaxial compression, and the exploding wire technique. Dynamic rupturing processes are visualized using the photoelastic method and are recorded via a high-speed camera. Our experimental methodology, which is full-field, in situ, and non-intrusive, has better control and diagnostic capacity compared to other existing experimental methods.

Using this experimental approach, we have investigated several problems: dynamics of earthquake faulting occurring along homogeneous faults separating identical materials, earthquake faulting along inhomogeneous faults separating materials with different wave speeds, and earthquake faulting along faults with a finite low wave speed fault core. We have observed supershear ruptures, rupture speed transition, directionality of rupture in faults with a material contrast, self-healing slip pulses in faults with a finite core, crack-like to pulse-like rupture transition in faults with a finite core.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:earthquake dynamics; laboratory earthqaukes; rupture transition; self-healing pulse; spontaneous rupture; supershear
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Mechanical Engineering
Minor Option:Geophysics
Awards:William F. Ballhaus Prize, 2005.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Rosakis, Ares J. (advisor)
  • Kanamori, Hiroo (advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Rosakis, Ares J. (chair)
  • Heaton, Thomas H. (co-chair)
  • Ravichandran, Guruswami
  • Kanamori, Hiroo
  • Tromp, Jeroen
  • Lapusta, Nadia
Defense Date:25 January 2005
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-02262005-161824
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:769
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:04 Mar 2005
Last Modified:08 May 2020 19:39

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