Quantification of Natural Fracture Surfaces Using Fractal Geometry1

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The purpose of this paper is to present an extensive evaluation of the methods to calculate the fractal dimension of natural fracture surfaces. Three methods; variogram analysis (VA), power spectral density (PSD), and roughness-length method (RMS) are applied to 2-D surface data (PSD) and 1-D profiles (VA and RMS) extracted from the surface data of 54 mm diameter crystallized limestone samples. Surface topography of the samples is quantified through a newly designed fully automated device. Before the application, self-affinity of the surface roughness and the applicability of these methods are validated using synthetically generated fractal surfaces. Fractal dimension values of the profiles are obtained as between 1 and 1.5 with a few exceptions. VA and RMS methods yield consistent fractal dimensions while the PSD values are lower than those of the other two methods. In terms of practical applicability, the VA is found more convenient than other two methods because there still exists shortcomings with the PSD and RMS methods due to difficulties in the mathematical analysis of the plots whose slopes are used in the computation of fractal dimension. However, it is observed that the data of limited size fracture surfaces are convenient for fractal analysis and the results are promising for further applications if the fracture surface size is restricted like cores recovered from deep boreholes.

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