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Fracture mechanics

Loading configuration
• Obreimoff: stable
– No failure

• Griffith: unstable
– Failure only for
uniform tension
Irwin’s generalization of the Griffith
concept: Fracture mechanics

• Approach whereby the crack is idealized

as a mathematically flat and narrow slit
contained within a linear elastic medium
• Analyse the stress field around a crack
• Macroscopic strength is determined from:
– intrinsic strength of the material
– applied stresses
– crack tip stresses
We need to characterize the driving
force for fracture:

• Stress Intensity Factor, K (units: Pa m0.5)

• Crack extension force, G (units: J m-2)
Crack displacement modes:

Mode I Opening mode fracture

Mode II In plane shear fracture
Mode III Antiplane shear fracture
Irwin’s crack tip solutions
• Defines the
shape of the
stress field
surrounding the
crack tip

• Polar or
Stress intensity factor, K
• The stress surrounding a crack is proportional
to one over the square root of the distance, r
from the crack, hence

σ ∝r −1 / 2

• The constant of proportionality is the stress

intensity factor, K

σ = Kr −1 / 2
Stress intensity factor, K
• Depends on fracture displacement mode
(I, II or III) and crack geometry


K I = ψσ yy πc
K II = ψσ yx πc
K III = ψσ yz πc y z

K I = ψσ yy πc
Geometry term, ψ
K II = ψσ yx πc
K III = ψσ yz πc

2c 2c

Straight crack Penny-shaped crack

ψ=1 ψ = 2/π
• Irwin’s crack tip solutions give the shape of
the stress field
• Stress intensity factor gives the magnitude
of the stress field
Critical stress intensity factor (or
fracture toughness), Kc

Where the stress intensity factor

reaches the energy equilibrium
- unstable propagation of the crack
Critical stress intensity factor, Kc
• There is a Kc for each displacement
– KIc
– KIIc

• Units of Kc are stress x √crack length,

MPa m0.5
Typical values for KIc
• ~0.7 MPa m0.5 for glass
• ~1.0 MPa m0.5 for marble
• ~1.5 MPa m0.5 for granite
• ~2.5 MPa m0.5 for basic rocks
• ~3.5 MPa m0.5 for eclogite
• ~140 MPa m0.5 for mild steel
Crack extension force, G
• Energy per unit area at the crack tip
• G is related to the stress intensity factor, K
GI =
(for plane stress and mode I fractures only)

dU m
G= G can be related to specific surface energy γ
Problems with the fracture
mechanics approach

• Crack tip processes lower the crack

extension force:
– distributed cracking
– plastic flow
• The crack behind the tip is assumed to be
– ok for mode I fractures
– problematic for mode II and III
Measuring KIc
Chevron notch method
-recommended by ISRM

• Easy to prepare
• Crack growth initially stable
• Critical crack length is constant – no crack
length measurements needed
Measuring KIc

Double torsion test Hertzian fracture test