Recent studies suggest that the tendency of many fault gouge minerals to take on adsorbed or interlayer water may strongly influence their frictional strength. To test this hypothesis, triaxial sliding experiments were conducted on 15 different single-mineral gouges with various water-adsorbing affinities. Vacuum dried samples were sheared at 100 MPa, then saturated with water and sheared farther to compare dry and wet strengths. The coefficients of friction, μ, for the dry sheet-structure minerals (0.2-0.8), were related to mineral bond strength, and dropped 20-60% with the addition of water. For non-adsorbing minerals (μ = 0.6-0.8), the strength remained unchanged after saturation. These results confirm that the ability of minerals to adsorb various amounts of water is related to their relative frictional strengths, and may explain the anomalously low strength of certain natural fault gouges.
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The effect of mineral bond strength and adsorbed water on fault gouge frictional strength