Articles | Volume 10, issue 6
31 Dec 2003
31 Dec 2003

Evolving towards a critical point: A possible electromagnetic way in which the critical regime is reached as the rupture approaches

P. G. Kapiris, K. A. Eftaxias, K. D. Nomikos, J. Polygiannakis, E. Dologlou, G. T. Balasis, N. G. Bogris, A. S. Peratzakis, and V. E. Hadjicontis

Abstract. In analogy to the study of critical phase transitions in statistical physics, it has been argued recently that the fracture of heterogeneous materials could be viewed as a critical phenomenon, either at laboratory or at geophysical scales. If the picture of the development of the fracture is correct one may guess that the precursors may reveal the critical approach of the main-shock. When a heterogeneous material is stretched, its evolution towards breaking is characterized by the appearance of microcracks before the final  break-up. Microcracks produce both acoustic and electromagnetic(EM) emission in the frequency range from VLF to VHF. The microcracks and the associated acoustic and EM activities constitute the so-called precursors of general fracture. These precursors are detectable not only at laboratory but also at geophysical scales. VLF and VHF acoustic and EM emissions have been reported resulting from volcanic and seismic activities in various geologically distinct regions of the world. In the present work we attempt to establish the hypothesis that the evolution of the Earth's crust towards the critical point takes place not only in a mechanical but also in an electromagnetic sense. In other words, we focus on the possible electromagnetic criticality, which is reached while the catastrophic rupture in the Earth's crust approaches. Our main tool is the monitoring of micro-fractures that occur before the final breakup, by recording their radio-electromagnetic emissions. We show that the spectral power law analysis of the electromagnetic precursors reveals distinguishing signatures of underlying critical dynamics, such as: (i) the emergence of memory effects; (ii) the decrease with time of the anti-persistence behaviour; (iii) the presence of persistence properties in the tail of the sequence of the precursors; and (iv) the acceleration of the precursory electro-magnetic energy release. Moreover, the statistical analysis of the amplitudes of the electromagnetic fluctuations reveals the breaking of the symmetry as the theory predicts. Finally, we try to answer the question: how universal the observed electromagnetic critical behaviour of the failing system is?