Hydrogel as a Medium for Fluid-Driven Fracture Study

13 Jul 2017

In this paper we describe how to construct polyacrylamide hydrogels to study the processes linked with hydraulic fracturing. These transparent, linearly elastic and brittle gels permit fracturing at low pressures and speeds allowing accurate measurements to be obtained. In the context of hydraulic fracturing, the broad range of modulus and fracture energy values that are attainable allow experimental exploration of particular regimes of importance. We also describe how material properties may be deduced from hydraulic fracturing experiments. Lastly, we analyse the fracture surface patterns that emerge from fluid-driven cracks occurring within the medium. These patterns are similar to those that have been observed in other materials and we comment on their fractal-like nature.