An approximate nonlinear modified Mohr-Coulomb shear strength criterion with critical state for intact rocks

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Shen, Baotang; Shi, Jingyu ORCID ID icon; Barton, Nick


Journal Article

Journal of Rock Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering




In this paper, the Mohr-Coulomb shear strength criterion is modified by mobilising the cohesion and internal friction angle with normal stress, in order to capture the nonlinearity and critical state concept for intact rocks reported in the literature. The mathematical expression for the strength is the same as the classical form, but the terms of cohesion and internal friction angle depend on the normal stress now, leading to a nonlinear relationship between the strength and normal stress. It covers both the tension and compression regions with different expressions for cohesion and internal friction angle. The strengths from the two regions join continuously at the transition of zero normal stress. The part in the compression region approximately satisfies the conditions of critical state, where the maximum shear strength is reached. Due to the nonlinearity, the classical simple relationship between the parameters of cohesion, internal friction angle and uniaxial compressive strength from the linear Mohr-Coulomb criterion does not hold anymore. The equation for determining one of the three parameters in terms of the other two is supplied. This equation is nonlinear and thus a nonlinear equation solver is needed. For simplicity, the classical linear relationship is used as a local approximation. The approximate modified Mohr-Coulomb criterion has been implemented in a fracture mechanics based numerical code FRACOD, and an example case of deep tunnel failure is presented to demonstrate the difference between the original and modified Mohr-Coulomb criteria. It is shown that the nonlinear modified Mohr-Coulomb criterion predicts somewhat deeper and more intensive fracturing regions in the surrounding rock mass than the original linear Mohr-Coulomb criterion. A more comprehensive piecewise nonlinear shear strength criterion is also included in Appendix B for those readers who are interested. It covers the tensile, compressive, brittle-ductile behaviour transition and the critical state, and gives smooth transitions.


Shear strength; Modified Mohr-Coulomb criterion; Critical state; Intact rock

Geomechanics and Resources Geotechnical Engineering


Journal article - Refereed


Shen, Baotang; Shi, Jingyu; Barton, Nick. An approximate nonlinear modified Mohr-Coulomb shear strength criterion with critical state for intact rocks. Journal of Rock Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. 2018; 10(4):645-652.

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