Dynamics of three-dimensional stepped cracks, bistability, and their transition to simple cracks

Meng Wang, Mokhtar Adda-Bedia, Jay Fineberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Slow cracks may be simple, with no internal structure. The leading edge of a simple crack, the crack front, forms a single fracture plane in its wake. Slow cracks may also develop segmented crack fronts, each segment propagating along a separate fracture plane. These planes merge at locations that form steps along fracture surfaces. Steps are not stationary, but instead propagate within a crack front. Real-time measurements of crack front structure and energy flux reveal that step dynamics significantly increase energy dissipation and drastically alter crack dynamics. Simple and stepped cracks are each stable. By extending the use of energy balance to include 3D crack front structure, we find that, while energy balance is obeyed, it is insufficient to select the energetically favorable crack growth mode. Transitions from stepped cracks to simple cracks occur only when their in-plane front lengths become equal and a perturbation momentarily changes step topology. Such 3D crack dynamics challenge our traditional understanding of fracture.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberL012001
JournalPhysical Review Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

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© 2023 authors. Published by the American Physical Society. Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article's title, journal citation, and DOI.


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