How Fast Cracks in Brittle Solids Choose Their Path

Lital Rozen-Levy, John M. Kolinski, Gil Cohen, Jay Fineberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


While we fundamentally understand the dynamics of simple cracks propagating in brittle solids within perfect (homogeneous) materials, we do not understand how paths of moving cracks are determined. We experimentally study strongly perturbed cracks that propagate between 10% and 95% of their limiting velocity within a brittle material. These cracks are deflected by either interaction with sparsely implanted defects or via an intrinsic oscillatory instability in defect-free media. Dense high-speed measurements of the strain fields surrounding the crack tips reveal that crack paths are governed by the direction of maximal strain energy density, even when the near-tip singular fields are highly disrupted. This fundamentally important result may be utilized to either direct or guide running cracks.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number175501
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number17
StatePublished - Oct 2020

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© 2020 American Physical Society.


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