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• Rheology is the study of the mechanical properties of solid materials as well as
fluids and gases
• When hot rocks flow, they accumulate strain gradually, like a very slow-moving
glacier or cake of syrup, without the formation of fractures or other discontinuities.

Figure 6.1 Ice in glaciers flows

similarly to a viscous fluid, but the
many fractures at the surface of
glaciers tell us that this may not be
a perfect model for its uppermost
part. Southeast Greenland.
• Elastic strain is recoverable because it involves stretching rather than breaking of
atomic bonds.
• Viscous deformation implies dependence of stress on strain rate: higher stress
means faster flow or more rapid strain accumulation.
• Plastic strain is the permanent change in shape or size of a body without fracture,
accumulated over time by a sustained stress beyond the elastic limit (yield point) of
the material.
• Increasing the temperature,
increasing the amount of fluid,
lowering the strain rate and, in
plastically deforming rocks,
reducing the grain size all tend
to cause strain weakening.

• Ductile deformation preserves

continuity of originally
continuous structures and
layers, and describes a scale-
dependent deformation style
that can form by a range of
deformation mechanisms.
• Strain hardening means that
the stress necessary to deform
the rock must be increased for • Plastic deformation is generally
strain to accumulate, because defined as the permanent
the rock becomes stronger and change in shape or size of a
harder to deform. body without fracture,
produced by a sustained stress
beyond the elastic limit of the
material due to dislocation
• Elastic theory is used for relatively small strains, from the millimeter scale to lithospheric scale. An
example of the latter is the elastic subsidence of the lithosphere caused by ice sheets up to several
kilometers thick during regional glaciations. The fact that the lithosphere rebounds when the ice melts
tells us that it can be modeled as an elastic plate, and the rate at which it rebounds tells us something
about the mantle viscosity and elastic properties of the lithosphere.
• Stress and elastic strain are related through Young’s modulus:A lowYoung’smodulus means little
resistance to deformation.
• Poisson’s ratio describes how much a material that is shortened in one direction expands in the two
other directions, or how much a material that is stretched in one direction contracts in the plane
perpendicular to the stretching direction.
• Elastic deformation of rocks reaches a critical stress or strain level (yield point) where permanent
deformation starts to accumulate.
• Mechanically, plastic deformation occurs when permanent strain keeps accumulating under a constant
stress level. More generally, plastic deformation is the deformation of rock by intracrystalline (non-
cataclastic) flow.
• For plastic deformation, strain rate is related to stress through a non-linear (power-law) relationship
called a flow law.
• Strain hardening and softening mean that the properties of the deforming rock change during
• The simple model of a predominantly plastically flowing lower crust overlain by a strong, brittle upper
crust and underlain by a stronger upper mantle is a simple but useful first approximation to the large-
scale rheological stratification of the crust.
• The idealized conditions in models and the laboratory are seldom met in nature, so models such as linear
elasticity, viscosity etc. must be used with care.
Deformation Experiment
The End