We investigate the evolving distribution of strain produced by a sliding fault within intact crystalline rock, and the energetics of deformation that occur both on- and off-fault. We slid precut faults of differing roughness oriented at 45° to while acquiring in situ X-ray microtomograms. Digital volume correlation of tomograms provide estimates of the 3D displacement and strain fields. This characterization of the strain tensor field reveal that the differing fault roughness produced distinct slip behavior, degree of strain localization and accumulation, and energy budget partitioning. The rougher fault slipped more episodically, hosted a wider and more asymmetric damage zone, and accommodated less normal and shear strain. This fault consumed more energy in off-fault deformation (Wint) per volume and more energy in frictional slip (Wfric) as portions of the total energy input to the system (Wext) than the smoother fault. In both experiments, Wfric consumed the largest portion of the energy budget (50–100%), while Wint consumed smaller percentages (5–20%). Tracking the temporal variability of energy partitioning revealed how evolving fault architecture determined the energetic dominance of particular deformational processes, and so highlighted the importance of tracking energy partitioning through time.
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