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Ice growth in a spherical cavity of a porous medium

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We consider an idealized problem of a sphere of ice growing symmetrically in a spherical cavity within a porous rock in order to identify and quantify different physical mechanisms that can result in fracturing the rock. We show that if the permeability of the rock is very small then high pressures can develop in the cavity as the water inside it expands on freezing. However, given typical permeabilities of most rocks, the pressure is relieved by flow out of the cavity through the rock pores. When ice fills the cavity, there remains a microscopic film of water separating the ice from the rock, owing to disjoining forces, and these forces can stress the rock and have the potential to fracture it. The elastic pressure in the rock depresses the freezing temperature, which can limit the potential for fracturing. This simple example reveals the important interactions between disjoining forces, elasticity and fluid flow in determining the pressure exerted during freezing of water-saturated cavities in rocks.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-06-01

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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