Strain softening and strain localisation in irreversible deformation of snow
Barraclough, Thomas William
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The aim of this work was to visualise heterogeneous deformation in snow under controlled laboratory conditions. Heterogeneous deformation was observed for both homogenous and heterogeneous loading conditions. Understanding deformation of snow is important in many scientific fields including vehicle traction, avalanche forecasting, and winter sports. This thesis investigates the deformation behaviour of snow on the centimetre scale under moderate strain rates (0.005 to 0.1 s-1) when subject to one-dimensional compression or to indentation. In order to allow controlled and repeatable snow deformation experiments, a new type of artificial snow was developed. This snow type was examined by low temperature scanning electron microscopy and by traditional avalanche observer’s methodology. Penetrometer experiments were conducted on the artificial snow and on natural seasonal snow in Scotland. The two snow types were found to be similar: results obtained on artificial snow are thus applicable to natural snow. A reproducible technique of manufacture and a thorough characterisation of the artificial snow are presented. One-dimensional compression experiments were conducted on the artificial snow. The experiments were in confined compression in a specially constructed apparatus, designed to provide for back-lit photography. Images were taken at 0.25 second intervals and analysed using digital image correlation, thus providing 2D strain fields. With careful control of photographic parameters, it is demonstrated that process of applying tracer substances to the snow is not necessary, thus allowing an unprecedented resolution. Spontaneously-forming strain localisations were observed for the first time, indicating strain softening behaviour. Damage was observed to propagate through the specimen as a moving front, resembling a wave. The force required to propagate the front remained nearly constant until the whole specimen was compacted, at which point a new front formed and the process repeated. The experimental method was extended to 2D indention experiments with a range of sizes and shapes of indenter. Complex deformation fields were observed, extending up to 6 times the width of the indenter on each side. Observed deformation included tensile tearing as well as compression and shear. The maximum local strain achieved in the indentation experiments was similar to that achieved by the first compaction front in one-dimensional compression. The work here presented has implications for snow deformation generally: strain localisation introduces a characteristic length, which may prevent scaling of models or results. The indentation results are particularly relevant to snow penetrometry, where indentation experiments are used to try and extract microstructural information from buried snow layers for the purpose of avalanche prediction. The common assumption that the penetrometer interacts only with snow very close to its tip may need to be reconsidered.