News ID: 197902
Published: 0506 GMT August 04, 2017

Scientists improve ability to measure rock stress

Scientists improve ability to measure rock stress
A satellite image shows China's Tarim Basin, where scientists tested a new method for measuring rock stress.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a more accurate method for measuring rock stress.

Their research could improve scientists ability to predict the severity of earthquake damage or risk of a mine shaft collapse, UPI reported.

Hiroki Sone, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and geological engineering at Madison, said, "Rock stress — the amount of pressure experienced by underground layers of rock — can only be measured indirectly because you can't see the forces that cause it.

“But instruments for estimating rock stress are difficult to use at great depths, where the temperature and pressure increase tremendously."

Scientists used the anelastic strain recovery method to measure the stress of rock samples collected from a well bore in northwest China's Tarim Basin.

Their measurements proved consistent with visual analysis of borehole wall images.

Though accurate, visual analysis requires the use of expensive and sensitive scanning technologies under harsh conditions.

The anelastic strain recovery method allows scientists to estimate rock stress by observing the sample's physical transformation after its brought from extreme underground depths up to the surface.

Sone said, "It estimates stress indirectly by measuring how much the rock sample expands in different directions after it has been recovered.”

The latest proof-of-concept tests show the anelastic strain recovery method can be used to measure rock stress at extreme depths — as deep as 6.9km.

Sone added, "These new results give us confidence that we can use the anelastic strain recovery method at greater depths than we thought possible.

"As long as the rock deforms the same amount in vertical and horizontal directions, this method is much easier to apply when very high temperatures and pressures in the Earth's crust challenge the other options in our toolbox."

Researchers described their rock stress tests in the journal Scientific Reports.

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