As one of the most complex natural materials on earth, shales manifest a variety of macroscale mechanical behaviors. Eagle Ford shales are carbonate-rich marine shales which exhibit textural and mineralogical variability. This variability of mineralogy and organic matter affect the bulk mechanical properties. Mechanical properties of components on the nanoscale may be determined by nanoindentation to correlate with structure and bulk properties.
Shale contains three main phases: pyrite framboids, carbonate grains, and a clay matrix. These phases are readily distinguished in the mechanical property maps, measured at a speed of 1 indent/s using a nanoindentation technique. Histograms are generated using the nanoindentation mapping software.
The clay matrix, blue values on the property maps, are on the lower end of the histograms, as expected, with the carbonate phase at higher modulus and hardness. The regions of highest modulus and hardness, in red on the property maps, corresponding to the pyrite-rich areas of the sample as expected. The greater spread of pyrite data may be due to the framboid structure allowing influence from the more compliant clay matrix. These quantitative images are far more valuable for understanding and predicting the mechanical behavior of the shale phases than what might be achieved with bulk testing methods (tension, compression, microhardness, etc).