Fracture toughness from the standpoint of softening hyperelasticity

K. Y. Volokh, P. Trapper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Fracture toughness of brittle materials is calibrated in experiments where a sample with a preexisting crack/notch is loaded up to a critical point of the onset of static instability. Experiments with ceramics, for example, exhibit a pronounced dependence of the toughness on the sharpness of the crack/notch: the sharper is the crack the lower is the toughness. These experimental results are not entirely compatible with the original Griffith theory of brittle fracture where the crack sharpness is of minor importance.11The finite sharpness of real cracks is also ignored in the modern theory of Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics where 'mathematical' cracks with zero width and tip singularity are considered. To explain the experimental observations qualitatively we simulate tension of a thin plate with a small crack of a finite and varying sharpness. In simulations, we introduce the average bond energy as a limiter for the stored energy of the Hookean solid. The energy limiter induces softening, indicating material failure. Thus, elasticity with softening allows capturing the critical point of the onset of static instability of the cracked plate, which corresponds to the onset of the failure propagation at the tip of the crack. In numerical simulations we find, in agreement with experiments, that the magnitude of the fracture toughness cannot be determined uniquely because it depends on the sharpness of the crack: the sharper is the crack, the lower is the toughness. Based on the obtained results, we argue that a stable magnitude of the toughness of brittle materials can only be reached when a characteristic size of the crack tip is comparable with a characteristic length of the material microstructure, e.g. grain size, atomic distance, etc. In other words, the toughness can be calibrated only under conditions where the hypothesis of continuum fails.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2459-2472
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Fracture
  • Material failure
  • Softening hyperelasticity
  • Toughness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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