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An Experimental Investigation into the Mechanics of Dynamic Fracture


Ravi-Chandar, K. (1982) An Experimental Investigation into the Mechanics of Dynamic Fracture. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/ZSX5-Q128.


Current theories of dynamic fracture are based on elastodynamic analyses of mathematically sharp plane cracks and as such do not explain the observed terminal velocities or the phenomenon of crack branching satisfactorily. The present investigation addresses the above problems by using both microscopic and macroscopic interpretations. The experimental scheme that is used in this investigation is the configuration of a pressure loaded semi-infinite crack in an infinite medium. The loading is achieved through an electromagnetic device which provides highly repeatable loading. The method of caustics is used in conjunction with a high speed camera to obtain the time histories of the crack tip stress intensity factor and the crack position.

The problems of crack initiation and crack arrest are explored. The stress intensity factor at initiation is found to be independent of the rate of applied loading when the latter is below about 104MPA/sec, but the initiation stress intensity factor increases considerably when the loading rate is increased further. Crack arrest is obtained in large specimen by using very low energy loading pulses. It was found that the stress intensity factor at crack arrest was constant and also that, within the time resolution of the high speed camera (5 μsec), the crack comes to a stop abruptly.

The crack propagation and branching aspects were investigated first using post-mortem analysis of the fracture surfaces and high speed photomicrography to get an idea of the microscopic processes that occur in the fracure process. From this investigation, it was found that crack propagation involving high stress intensity factor and high velocity situations takes place by the growth and interaction of microcracks, due to the voids present in the material. A surprising result of this investigation was that cracks propagated at a constant velocity, although the stress intensity factor varied. Current theories of dynamic fracture cannot explain such behaviour. The crack branching process was found to be a continuous process arising out of propagation along a straight line. High speed photomicrographs of the branching process indicated the presence of a number of part-through attempted branches that interact with one another and finally the successful emergence of a few full fledged branches.

The microscopic observations on the crack propagation and branching process leads to a new interpretation of dynamic fracture that attempts to qualitatively explain the constancy of the velocity of propagation, the terminal velocity and crack branching. The crack branching mechanism is a logical continuation of the mechanism for crack propagation.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Crack Branching; Crack Growth Criterion; Electromagnetic Loading; Fracture Process Zone; Microcracks
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Aeronautics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Knauss, Wolfgang Gustav
Thesis Committee:
  • Babcock, Charles D. (chair)
  • Housner, George W.
  • Kanamori, Hiroo
  • Knowles, James K.
  • Knauss, Wolfgang Gustav
Defense Date:1 February 1982
Non-Caltech Author Email:kravi (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Office of Naval Research (ONR)UNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-10302003-104624
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:4316
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:10 Nov 2003
Last Modified:24 Jun 2020 22:16

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