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Analysis of Stress

The concept of stress involves the action of forces on a body. Two

types are considered:
1) Body forces . Which are generally forces per unit volume. For
gravitational forces, these depend on the mass distribution within
the body. These are generally non-contact forces.
2) Surface forces . These are forces per unit area acting along
surfaces of elemental volumes and are contact forces with adjacent
parts of the body. These forces give rise to the concept of traction
on external and internal surfaces. The traction on an external
surface of the body is related to the applied force by

the point P.

is the average force on the small surface

centered on

is called the traction vector.

Units of traction and stress are in force/area. In cgs, the units of stress
are dyne/cm2. In SI, the units of stress are 1 Newton/m2 = 1 Pascal (1 Pascal =
10 dyne/cm2). Other units are
1 bar = 106 dyne/cm2 = 105 Pascals
1 bar = 1.0133 Atmospheres
1 kilobar = 15,000 lb/in2

We now want to investigate tractions on internal surfaces within a

body. Consider a bar under tension

The external applied force,

, results in tractions

on the ends.

Now, cut the bar and apply forces on the two sides of the cut so that the
shape of either section of bar remains unchanged. Equilibrium requires

Now define the tractions

on the upper and lower

faces of the cut. From Newtons Third Law,

. Thus,
the arbitrary internal surface that we have constructed.
In 3-D, consider a cut of area
applied to the side with normal

at a point P. Let


be the force


. On the other side of the cut,

From Newtons Third Law

Thus, as in the case for the bar, the tractions on either side of the cut are of the
same magnitude, but opposite in sign.
If we made cuts in other directions, say with normals and , we
would obtain different values for the internal traction at P. Note that for a
fluid, the pressure is related to the traction by
for any . But in a
solid, the magnitude and direction of the traction depends on the orientation of
the surface element
Ex) Consider the walls of a house.

For an elemental area of the wall at point

will be non-zero and large.

. But, at point

It at first seems that there will be an infinite number of traction vectors

at a given point depending on the orientation of the small surface. But,
Cauchy proved, that in fact all the various tractions at P can be derived from a
set of six numbers collectively grouped as the stress tensor.

Stress Tensor
The idea is instead of defining tractions on arbitrarily oriented planes
at point P, we define tractions on the coordinate planes


where and
are unit vectors in the x1 and x2 directions. The vectors are
oriented in the conventional positive directions. Thus,
would be
positive if they stretch the material. Also, on the opposite faces

In 3D, we will write

in which

is the stress tensor at the point P, where

are tensional or compressive stresses
are shear stresses

In index notation, the stress tensor is

, where i is normal to coordinate
plane in which the traction acts and j indicates the component of the traction

Cauchy showed that the stresses on any plane through an internal point
P can be written as a linear combination of the elements of the stress
tensor. This is a fundamental theorem of solid mechanics. Consider the
triangle in 2D (tetrahedron in 3-D)

The traction on surface with normal


Now we must find the condition of equilibrium of the
triangle. Balancing forces in the x1 and x2 directions gives
In the x1 direction:
In the x2 direction:

From geometry

We then find

In index notation for 3-D, then

(with implied sum on j)

Thus, the knowledge of the stress tensor
stress around the point P.

specifies completely the state of

In order to prevent the body from spinning, we also require that the net
torque be zero. Evaluating the torque for a reference point at the center of the
square, we get


is a force and

In the general 3-D case,

tensor is symmetrical, where

is a moment arm. Then,

. Because of this relation, the stress

, and
. Thus, only six numbers are
needed to completely describe the state of stress of an internal point P in a
It is important to separate between the isotropic and deviatoric part of
the stress tensor . We define

where is independent of the coordinate system and P is the pressure. The

minus sign is used to require P to be positive when it is compressive. The
stress elements themselves are positive in tension. We rewrite

or in index notation


is the deviatoric part of the stress tensor.


For hydrostatic stress,

. For a hydrostatic increase of
stress with depth due to a uniform overburden, then

where is the density of the overburden, z is thickness, and g is the

acceleration of gravity. As an example, the hydrostatic pressure at a depth of
10 km underneath a thickness of rock with an average density of 3000
kilograms/m3 is
P = (3000 kilograms/m3) (10 x 103 m) (9.8 m/s2)
= 2.94 x 108 Pascals ~ 294 MPa
= 2.94 kbars
At an average thickness of the crust of 30 km, the hydrostatic pressure would
be on the order of 1 GPa or 10 kbars.

Transformations of the Stress Tensor in Rotated Coordinate Systems

The components of a vector in a rotated coordinate system can be

related to the components in the original system by a coordinate rotation
matrix . For example, the components of the vector
coordinate systems, can be written

above, in two

where the components of are the direction cosines between the old and new
coordinate axes. The rotation matrix is,

As an example, if


, then

, then

in the new coordinate system.

Note for rotation matrices,

since these are orthogonal
matrices. Now assume a general relationship between two vectors and

In a rotated coordinate system

Then, the general relationship between


can be written



in the new coordinate system where

. This general relationship has the same form in any rotated
coordinate system with the coefficients depending on the orientation of the
coordinate system.
Now, consider the traction vector on an internal plane with normal


, this can also be written


In a rotated coordinate system, the traction vector is

Now, we choose so that
is a diagonal matrix. In this special
coordinate system, all the shear stresses are zero and the normal stresses are
called the principle stresses acting with respect to the three rotated coordinate
axes. Let


are the rotated axes with respect to the unrotated

axes. Then,

or for each

can be written as

, then

forms an eigenvalue problem. To find the eigenvalues


must be zero. Thus,

, the determinant

to solve for . Next solve for the eigenvectors and make sure to adjust
to unit length. Standard computer software, such as Matlab, can be used to
find the principle stresses

and the principle stress directions

(i = 1,3).

These can be ordered such that

. Since these are positive
for tensional stresses, provides the maximum compressive stress. There
are no shear or tangential stresses act on these new coordinate faces, only
normal stresses.
In the 2-D case, it is useful to derive these relations in detail



. Then,

This can be multiplied out and written in terms of components of


If we let

, then we can find the rotation angle

to be


, then,
stress. Thus,

will be the maximum and minimum normal

These would then be the eigenvalues in the above eigenvector analysis in

2D. From

, we find that

on planes with normal 45o from the maximum compressive stress direction.
This gives rise to the simplest theory of faulting where shear failure
occurs on planes of maximum shear stress with normals at 45 o from the axis
of maximum compressional stress.

If rocks possess a cohesive strength and internal friction, the angle will
generally be different from 45o. In 3D, different regimes of faulting can be
inferred depending on the orientations of the principle stress directions
For example, normal faulting, thrust faulting, and strike-slip faulting
result when the principle stress directions are oriented as below.

As an example of the calculation of the principle stresses in 2D, let


This gives for the principle stresses,



These must then be normalized to unit length to get


. Using the 2-D

Stress maps showing the orientation of maximum horizontal shear

stress have been developed based on orientations of earthquake faulting and in
situ stress measurements. One technique for finding this is from breakout
zones in boreholes which align with the principle stress directions and are
often consistent over regional distances.
A solid body is in static equilibrium when the resultant force and moment on each axis
is equal to zero. This can be expressed by the equilibrium equations. In this article we
will prove the equilibrium equations by calculating the resultant force and moment on
each axis. A more elegant solution may be derived by using Gausss theorem and
Cauchys formula. This approach may be found in international bibliography.
Consider a solid body in static equilibrium that neither moves nor rotates. Surface and
body forces act on this body. We cut an infinitesimal parallelepiped inside the body and
we analyze the forces that act on it as shown in Fig. 1. We will assume that the stress
field is continuous and differentiable inside the whole body.

Figure 1: Infinitesimal parallelepiped in static equilibrium

The stress components on each side is a function of the position since we have a non
uniform but continuous stress field. For example on side 4 the normal stress
. On the opposite side 2 the normal stress
. By taking under consideration Taylors theorem we may write:
The higher order terms have been neglected because they are relatively small. We
follow the same procedure for all the components as shown if Fig. 1.
Equilibrium of the body demand that the resultant forces must vanish. By summing up
the forces with direction parallel to axis
we get:
are the dimensions of the parallelepiped and
component of the body force parallel to . By dividing with
we get:

is the

Similarly we can obtain the equations for the other two directions. The final set of
equilibrium equations is:
By using index notation we may write the three equilibrium equations in compact form:
The resultant moment on each axis must also vanish. By taking under consideration all
the forces that contribute to moment about axis
we may write:

by dividing with

and taking the limit



Following the same procedure for the other two axes lead to the conclusion that the
stress tensor is symmetric:
It should be noted that the above symmetry holds true only if no external body
moments proportional to volume exist. Else, the stress tensor should be considered
asymmetric. However, for the majority of Rock Mechanics problems the stress tensor is
For the case of two dimensional problems, equilibrium equations simplify as follows:
Consider a solid body which is subject to the following stresses:
Calculate the body forces in order to achieve static equilibrium.
The resultant force on each axis must vanish. By using equations (4) we get:
Suggested Bibliography
Y.C. Fung. A First Course in Continuum Mechanics. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs,
New Jersey, 3rd ed., 1994.
L.E. Malvern. Introduction to the Mechanics of a Continuous Medium. Prentice Hall,
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1969.
J.N. Reddy. An Introduction to Continuum Mechanics. Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, 2008.