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Dataset for paper: Experimental Observations and Statistical Modeling of Crack Propagation Dynamics in Limestone by Acoustic Emission Analysis During Freezing and Thawing

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posted on 11.08.2021, 13:16 authored by Julian MurtonJulian Murton, Vikram MajiVikram Maji
Dataset for paper published in Advancing Earth and Space Science. July 2021

Acoustic emission data during freeze–thaw experiment on limestone in Sussex Permafrost Laboratory

The dataset contains the continuous acoustic emission (AE) activity measured during the course of 16 bidirectional (bottom up and top down) freezing and thawing cycles in 300 mm cubic block of Tuffeau limestone. The physical experiment under the dynamic thermal boundary conditions aims to understand the mechanistic development of micro- to macroscale fracturing over the course of 470 days by sensing the location, timing, duration and amplitude of acoustic waves during any events of cracking. Eight R15-alpha piezoceramic transducers (PZT) (manufactured by Mistras Group) were used to detect the AE waveforms mounted on the surfaces of the limestone by silicon grease epoxy (Pro silicone grease 494-124, from RS Components). The signals were further amplified by 40 dB using Physical Acoustic Corporation (PAC) preamplifiers (IL40S with 32 to 1100 kHz). A threshold of 40 dB was set to separate noise induced in the laboratory from the signals of microcracking events. The signals were acquired by an 8-channel PCI Express-8 data card (Mistras Group) and the entire operation was controlled by AEWin software (Mistras Group). The first column in the datasheet represents the days since the beginning of the experiment, followed by 3D locations (X, Y and Z, measured in millimetres from the top left corner in the front face of the block) of the AE (i.e., microcracking) events in columns two to four. Signals from at least four out of eight transducers were considered to indicate the location of released energy (AE hit). Column five and six illustrates rise time and duration of the AE waveforms in microseconds. The number of times a signal crossing the preset threshold (i.e., count) and the maximum amplitude (in dB) were presented in column seven and eight, respectively. The dataset is analyzed and interpreted in the following draft research paper, currently in preparation: Maji V, Murton JB. Experimental observations and statistical modelling of crack propagation dynamics in limestone by acoustic emission analysis during freezing and thawing.

The timing and location of microcracking events, their propagation and coalescence to form macrocracks, and their development by tension, shearing or mixed modes are little known but essential to understanding the fracture of intact rock by freezing and thawing. The aims of the present study are to investigate the mechanisms and transition of microcracking and macrocracking during repeated freeze-thaw, and to develop a statistical model of crack propagation that assesses the distance and angular relationship of neighboring cracking events arranged in their temporal order of occurrence. Eight acoustic emission (AE) sensors mounted on a 300 mm cubic block of chalk captured the three-dimensional locations of microcracking events in their temporal order of occurrence during 16 seasonal freeze-thaw cycles simulating an active layer above permafrost. AE events occurred mostly during thawing periods (45%) and freeze-to-thaw transitions (37%) rather than during freezing periods (9%) and thaw-to-freeze transitions (8%), suggesting that most AE (microcrack) events were driven by the process of ice segregation rather than volumetric expansion. The outcomes of a novel statistical model of crack propagation based on two boundary conditions—inside-out and outside-in modes of cracking—were assessed based on Bayes’ theorem by testing the hypothesis that the inside-out mode of cracking was favored by tensional activity, whereas the outside-in mode was supported by shearing events. In both situations, the hypothesis accounted for 54%–73% confidence level. The microcrack propagation model can distinguish reasonably between cracks formed by volumetric expansion and ice segregation.

Plain Language Summary
It is well known that repeated freezing and thawing of water within some porous and fine-grained rocks can form large cracks visible to the unaided eye. But the initiation and growth of precursor tiny cracks too small to see without a microscope remain enigmatic in terms of their timing, location, growth, and coalescence to form eventually large cracks. Thus, prediction of rock fracture by frost is difficult. Here we present results from a laboratory experiment that measured the location and timing of tiny sound (acoustic) waves within a block of limestone subject to 16 cycles of freezing and thawing. The waves indicated the occurrence of tiny cracking events. Measurement of rock temperature suggested that most cracking events resulted from water migrating through the rock toward lenses of ice rather than expansion of water freezing in place within empty spaces in rock. In addition, cracks propagating outward from the block center tended to form as the rock was being pulled apart, whereas those propagating inward tended to form by scissor-like tearing of rock. A new statistical model of rock cracking can distinguish reasonably well between cracks formed by growing ice lenses and those formed by expansion of freezing water.


The research was funded by The University of Sussex through a Chancellor’s international research scholarship and a Global Studies studentship in the Department of Geography.