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Phys Rev Lett. 2019 Jan 11;122(1):015502. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.122.015502.

Compressive Failure as a Critical Transition: Experimental Evidence and Mapping onto the Universality Class of Depinning.

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University of Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, ISTerre, 38000 Grenoble, France.
University of Savoie Mont-Blanc, CNRS, LOCIE, 73736 Le Bourget du Lac Cedex, France.


Acoustic emission (AE) measurements performed during the compressive loading of concrete samples with three different microstructures (aggregate sizes and porosity) and four sample sizes revealed that failure is preceded by an acceleration of the rate of fracturing events, power law distributions of AE energies and durations near failure, and a divergence of the fracturing correlation length and time towards failure. This argues for an interpretation of compressive failure of disordered materials as a critical transition between an intact and a failed state. The associated critical exponents were found to be independent of sample size and microstructural disorder and close to mean-field depinning values. Although compressive failure differs from classical depinning in several respects, including the nature of the elastic redistribution kernel, an analogy between the two processes allows deriving (finite-) sizing effects on strength that match our extensive data set. This critical interpretation of failure may have also important consequences in terms of natural hazards forecasting, such as volcanic eruptions, landslides, or cliff collapses.

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