Material failure by crack propagation essentially involves a concentration of large displacement-gradients near a crack's tip, even at scales where no irreversible deformation and energy dissipation occurs. This physical situation provides the motivation for a systematic gradient expansion of general nonlinear elastic constitutive laws that goes beyond the first order displacement-gradient expansion that is the basis for linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM). A weakly nonlinear fracture mechanics theory was recently developed by considering displacement-gradients up to second order. The theory predicts that, at scales within a dynamic lengthscale ℓ from a crack's tip, significant log r displacements and 1 / r displacement-gradient contributions arise. Whereas in LEFM the 1 / r singularity generates an unbalanced force and must be discarded, we show that this singularity not only exists but is also necessary in the weakly nonlinear theory. The theory generates no spurious forces and is consistent with the notion of the autonomy of the near-tip nonlinear region. The J-integral in the weakly nonlinear theory is also shown to be path-independent, taking the same value as the linear elastic J-integral. Thus, the weakly nonlinear theory retains the key tenets of fracture mechanics, while providing excellent quantitative agreement with measurements near the tip of single propagating cracks. As ℓ is consistent with lengthscales that appear in crack tip instabilities, we suggest that this theory may serve as a promising starting point for resolving open questions in fracture dynamics.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We are grateful to James R. Rice for very fruitful discussions and in particular for introducing us to his 1974 work and for suggesting a way to determine the free parameter in the weakly nonlinear solution. This research was supported by Grant no. 57/07 of the Israel Science Foundation.
- Asymptotic analysis
- Crack mechanics
- Dynamic fracture
- Nonlinear elasticity