The relative displacements of the walls of many veins, joints, and dikes demonstrate that these structures are dilatant cracks. We infer that dilatant cracks propagate in a principal stress plane, normal to the maximum tensile or least compressive stress. Arrays of echelon crack segments appear to emerge from the peripheries of some dilatant cracks. Breakdown of a parent crack into an echelon array may be initiated by a spatial or temporal rotation of the remote principal stresses about an axis parallel to the crack propagation direction. Near the parent-crack tip, a rotation of the local principal stresses is induced in the same sense, but not necessarily through the same angle. Incipient echelon cracks form at the parent-crack tip normal to the local maximum tensile stress. Further longitudinal growth along surfaces that twist about axes parallel to the propagation direction realigns each echelon crack into a remote principal stress plane. The walls of these twisted cracks may be idealized as helicoidal surfaces. An array of helicoidal cracks sweeps out less surface area than one parent crack twisting through the same angle. Thus, many echelon cracks grow from a single parent because the work done in creating the array, as measured by its surface area decreases as the number of cracks increases. -from Authors
Additional publication details
Formation and interpretation of dilatant echelon cracks.