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Freeze fracturing of elastic porous media: a mathematical model.

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Vlahou, I 
Worster, MG 


We present a mathematical model of the fracturing of water-saturated rocks and other porous materials in cold climates. Ice growing inside porous rocks causes large pressures to develop that can significantly damage the rock. We study the growth of ice inside a penny-shaped cavity in a water-saturated porous rock and the consequent fracturing of the medium. Premelting of the ice against the rock, which results in thin films of unfrozen water forming between the ice and the rock, is one of the dominant processes of rock fracturing. We find that the fracture toughness of the rock, the size of pre-existing faults and the undercooling of the environment are the main parameters determining the susceptibility of a medium to fracturing. We also explore the dependence of the growth rates on the permeability and elasticity of the medium. Thin and fast-fracturing cracks are found for many types of rocks. We consider how the growth rate can be limited by the existence of pore ice, which decreases the permeability of a medium, and propose an expression for the effective 'frozen' permeability.



freeze fracturing, frost heave, premelting

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Proc Math Phys Eng Sci

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The Royal Society
This research was supported by a PhD studentship from the EPSRC.