Linear failure criteria with three principal stresses

James P. Meyer, Joseph F. Labuz

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53 Scopus citations


Any failure criterion can be represented as a surface in principal stress space σ1, σ2, σ3 (with no order implied), and the shape of the surface depends on the functional form of the criterion. For isotropic rock that exhibits a pressure dependence on strength, the simplest failure criterion is a linear function, and the failure surface is a hexagonal pyramid with a common vertex Vo on the tension side of the hydrostatic axis, where Vo=(theoretical) uniform triaxial tensile strength. An example of a pyramidal failure surface is the popular Mohr-Coulomb criterion, which is independent of the intermediate principal stress σIII≥σII≥σIII) and contains two material parameters, such as Vo and the internal friction angle φ. The Paul-Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion AσI+BσII+CσIII=1 is linear with three principal stresses, and it is formulated with three identifiable material constants, where A=(1-sinφc)/(2Vosinφc), B=(sinφc-sinφe)/(2Vosinφcsinφe), C=-(1+sinφe)/(2Vosinφe) and φc, φe are internal friction angles for compression (σIIIII) and extension (σIII). The convex nature of the failure surface at constant mean stress can be approximated by additional planes with appropriate material parameters. To demonstrate the utility of the linear failure criterion, a series of conventional triaxial compression and extension experiments were performed on an isotropic rock. The results were processed using the developed data fitting techniques, and the material parameters for the six-sided pyramidal failure surface were determined. A multi-axial experiment was also performed to evaluate the convexity of the failure surface, and a twelve-sided pyramid was constructed and the appropriate equations were derived.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-187
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences
StatePublished - Jun 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Partial support, with no endorsement of the approach, was provided by NSF Grant CMMI-0825454 and Itasca Consulting Inc. Profs. A. Drescher and Z. Mróz are acknowledged for their comprehensive treatment in the literature of failure criteria and inelastic response of geomaterials.


  • Compression failure
  • Extension failure
  • Intermediate stress effect
  • Linear failure criterion
  • Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion
  • Multi-axial testing
  • Triaxial testing


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