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You are here: Home / Seminars / Experimental physics and modelling / Supershear cracks in Tensile Fracture: How fast can materials break?

Supershear cracks in Tensile Fracture: How fast can materials break?

Meng Wang (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)
When Oct 10, 2023
from 11:00 to 12:00
Where Salle Condorcet
Contact Name Mokhtar Adda Bedia
Attendees Meng Wang
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Brittle materials fail by means of rapid cracks. At their tips, tensile cracks dissipate elastic energy stored in the surrounding material to create newly fractured surfaces, precisely maintaining 'energy balance' by exactly equating the energy flux with dissipation. Using energy balance, fracture mechanics perfectly describes crack motions, accelerating from nucleation to their maximal speed: the Rayleigh wave speed. Beyond this limit, tensile fracture is generally considered to be impossible [1,2].

Recently, the potential emergence of an entirely new branch of fracture that is not incorporated in classical fracture mechanics has been predicted in lattice models to occur at high applied stretch [3,4]. This theory predicts tensile cracks that can exceed the shear wave velocity, and potentially even the dilatation waves speed [5]. Here, by using brittle hydrogels, we experimentally demonstrate that such a wholly new and different class of tensile cracks indeed exists [6]. We demonstrate that their dynamics are not governed by the principle of energy balance, the cornerstone of the classical theory of fracture. This new branch of cracks smoothly surpasses the shear wave speed to reach unprecedented speeds approaching the speed of dilatation waves. The transition from ‘classical' cracks to these ‘supershear' cracks takes place at critical values of applied strains. We, furthermore, show that the values of these rather moderate (18-20%), critical strains are intimately related to the microscopic material structure. While it is still unclear whether this intriguing fracture mode is indeed that predicted theoretically by Marder [3], it is clear that these extreme tensile cracks have never before been clearly observed in experiments. This new mode of tensile fracture represents a fundamental paradigm shift in our understanding of 'how things break'.

[1] L. B. Freund, Dynamic fracture mechanics. Cambridge university press (1998).
[2] K. B. Broberg, Cracks and Fracture. Academic Press (1999).
[3] M. Marder, Supersonic Rupture of Rubber, J. Mech. Phys. Solids, 54, 491–532 (2006).
[4] T. M. Guozden, E. A. Jagla, and M. Marder, Supersonic cracks in lattice models, Int. J. Fract., 162, 107–125 (2010).
[5] C. Behn and M. Marder, The transition from subsonic to supersonic cracks, Philos. Transact. A Math. Phys. Eng. Sci., 373, 20140122 (2015).
[6] M. Wang, S. Shi & J. Fineberg, Tensile cracks can shatter classical speed limits, Science, 381,415-419 (2023)