Simulations of dynamic crack propagation in brittle materials using nodal cohesive forces and continuum damage mechanics in the distinct element code LDEC Experimental data indicates that the limiting crack speed in brittle materials is less than the Rayleigh wave speed. One reason for this is that dynamic instabilities produce surface roughness and microcracks that branch from the main crack. These processes increase dissipation near the crack tip over a range of crack speeds. When the scale of observation (or mesh resolution) becomes much larger than the typical sizes of these features, effective-medium theories are required to predict the coarse-grained fracture dynamics. Two approaches to modeling these phenomena are described and used in numerical simulations. The first approach is based on cohesive elements that utilize a rate-dependent weakening law for the nodal cohesive forces. The second approach uses a continuum damage model which has a weakening effect that lowers the effective Rayleigh wave speed in the material surrounding the crack tip. Simulations in this paper show that while both models are capable of increasing the energy dissipated during fracture when the mesh size is larger than the process zone size, only the continuum damage model is able to limit the crack speed over a range of applied loads. Numerical simulations of straight-running cracks demonstrate good agreement between the theoretical predictions of the combined models and experimental data on dynamic crack propagation in brittle materials. Simulations that model crack branching are also presented.

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