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journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/compgeo

of fracture process zone in quasi-brittle materials

Ali Tarokh a,, Ali Fakhimi b,c

a

Department of Mineral Engineering, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM 87801, USA

c

School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

b

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:

Received 28 January 2014

Received in revised form 8 June 2014

Accepted 1 July 2014

Available online 18 July 2014

Keywords:

Bonded-particle model (BPM)

Particle size

Specimen size

Fracture process zone (FPZ)

Brittleness number

a b s t r a c t

Experimental tests performed on quasi-brittle materials show that a process zone develops ahead of a

crack tip. This zone can affect the strength and the deformation pattern of a structure. A discrete element

approach with a softening contact bond model is utilized to simulate the development of the fracture

process zone in the three-point bending tests. Samples with different dimensions and particle sizes are

generated and tested. It is shown that as the material brittleness decreases, the width of the process zone

becomes more dependent on the specimen size. Furthermore, the increase in the particle size, results in

increase in the width of the process zone. A dimensional analysis together with the numerical results

shows that the width of process zone is a linear function of particle size (radius). This nding is discussed

and compared with published experimental data in the literature.

2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Structures composed of quasi-brittle materials such as rock or

concrete exhibit a zone of localized microcracking when the

strength of the material is approached. The estimation of the material strength has been shown to be dependent on this localized

zone and the structure itself [1,2]. Furthermore, it has been experimentally observed that the path of the visible fracture is within

this localized zone of microcracking [3,4]. Therefore, in modeling

the response of a quasi-brittle structure, the characteristics of this

localized zone or the so-called fracture process zone should be considered in predicting the tensile failure. Many researchers have

shown signicant interest in experimental investigation of the

governing parameters affecting the fracture process zone. Some

of the parameters that have been reported to inuence the process

zone are the specimen size [3,5], crack length [6], porosity [7,8],

and loading rate [9]. Microstructure is also known to have a strong

inuence on the size of process zone [1013]. Despite the qualitative observations of the inuence of microstructure on the size of

the process zone, a few quantitative relationships have been proposed. Zietlow and Labuz [3] suggested an approximate linear relationship between the width of the process zone and the logarithm

of grain size. Mihashi and Nomura [14] studying the process zone

Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 612 625 8337.

E-mail address: tarok001@umn.edu (A. Tarokh).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compgeo.2014.07.002

0266-352X/ 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

process zone is independent of the maximum aggregate size but

the width of the process zone is strongly affected. Wang et al.

[15] investigated the inuence of grain size on size of the process

zone using laser speckle interferometry and reported that the size

of the process zone is inuenced by the ratio of notch width to the

average grain diameter; if this ratio decreases, the size of process

zone will increase. Otsuka and Date [5] implemented three dimensional acoustic emission and X-rays using contrast medium on

concrete and found that with the increase of maximum aggregate

size, the width and length of the process zone increase and

decrease, respectively.

To investigate the effect of particle size on the width of the process zone, the bonded-particle model (BPM), which is based on the

discrete element method (DEM), is adopted in the present work. A

tensile softening contact bond model is used to mimic the development of the process zone. By varying the particle size and the

material brittleness, different synthetic quasi-brittle samples were

generated. The material brittleness was modied by changing the

slope of the softening line (Knp). The samples were numerically

tested in the three-point bending tests. It is shown that the

increase in the particle size will increase the width of the process

zone. Furthermore, it was found that the width of the process zone

is a linear function of the particle size. For a xed specimen size

and notch length, the increase in the particle size will result in a

larger process zone making the material less brittle.

52

2. Numerical model

In this paper, the CA2 computer program, which is a hybrid discrete-nite element program for two-dimensional analysis of

geomaterials, was used to simulate the failure process in Berea

sandstone [1618]. The bonded-particle model [19], which is one

of the discrete element method (DEM) based particle models has

been used extensively for simulating rock failure [20,21]. The rock

is modeled as a bonded particle system in which the rigid circular

particles (representing the grains) interact through normal and

shear springs to simulate elasticity. Rigid particles mean that they

maintain their shape while they can slightly overlap at the contact

points in reaction to the applied stresses. When rigid particles are

used, only translation of the centroids and the rigid body rotation

of the particles need to be considered in the simulation, i.e. there

are three degrees of freedom for a two dimensional particle. If

the particles could deform (not rigid), then the particle deformations (strains) would need to be included in the governing differential equations, effectively increasing the number of degrees of

freedom in the system and the computational cost. Therefore, the

assumption of the rigidity of the particles facilitates the simulation

involving large number of particles (for the 320 960 mm rock

beam of the simulated Berea sandstone, more than 1 million particles were used and a couple of weeks of computer time with an i7

processor were needed to nish the simulation). From physical

point of view, application of rigid particles is justied when the

particle rigidity is much greater than the binding material. Therefore, precise modeling of the particle deformation is not necessary

to obtain a good approximation of the mechanical behavior [22].

Another simplication in our model is that the particle shapes

are assumed to be circular. This assumption has given good results

compared to many experimental observations [23,24]. Hogue [25]

and Houlsby [26] present a comprehensive description of the

issues associated with the choice of particle geometry in DEM.

Finally, in the bonded particle models, it is assumed that the failure

particles.

Fn (Tension)

Fs (Shear)

sb

nb

can only occur along the particle boundaries. The relative amount

of different types of microcracks appears to depend on the mineralogy, rock type and stress state [27]. Hamil and Sriruang [28]

found that the cracks propagate mostly along the grain boundaries

in sedimentary rocks such as sandstone. On the other hand, in the

crystalline rocks such as granite, transgranular paths were most

frequent and sometimes dominant.

In order to withstand tensile and deviatoric stresses, the rigid

circular particles are bonded together at the contact points. Fig. 1

shows the micromechanical constants in this model. The micromechanical constants at a contact point in this model are Kn (normal

stiffness), Ks (shear stiffness), nb (normal bond), sb (shear bonds),

and l (friction coefcient). In addition, the radius of the particles

(R) must be specied. The genesis pressure (r0) that is the conning pressure during the sample preparation (determines the

amount of initial small overlap between particles) can affect the

material behavior too. The signicance of these parameters has

been discussed in a previous study [21].

Since quasi-brittle materials such as rock and concrete usually

display tension softening during fracturing [29,30], a softening

contact bond feature was implemented in the numerical model.

In this softening model, the normal bond at a contact point is

assumed to reduce linearly after the peak tensile contact load

(Fig. 2a). Therefore, a new microscopic constant, the slope in the

post peak region of the normal force-normal displacement

between two particles in contact (Knp), is introduced in the model.

As shown in Fig. 2b, no modication in the shear force-relative

shear displacement of a contact is assumed in this simple model.

Softening in shear is only relevant for loading under signicant

mean stress (more than 1/3 of uniaxial compressive strength). Distinct shear failure plane forms at moderate compression in which

the mean stress, p = (r1 + r2 + r3)/3 is in the following range rc/

3 < p < rc [31]. This is not the case in the three point bending tests

conducted in this study; no actual shear cracks are developed in

our tests. The loading and unloading paths for both normal and

shear contact forces are shown with arrows in Fig. 2.

After sample preparation, the numerical model was calibrated

to obtain the mechanical properties of Berea sandstone. The procedures for sample preparation and calibration have been described

elsewhere [21]. The grains in this particular sandstone range from

0.1 to 0.8 mm. The mechanical properties of the Berea sandstone

are E (elastic modulus) = 14 GPa, m (Poissons ratio) = 0.32, rc (uniaxial compressive strength) = 5565 MPa, and rN (bending tensile

strength) = 8.6 MPa for an 80 240 30 (height span thickness) mm rock beam [3]. After calibration of the numerical model,

uniaxial compressive test on an 40 80 mm (width length)

Kn

Kn

1

1

Kn

Fn

Knp

Un

Us

A

Fn (Compression)

(a)

(b)

Fig. 2. Relationships in the softening contact bond model (a) normal force and normal displacement and (b) shear force and shear displacement [18].

53

70

c = 65 MPa

60

80 240 mm (height span) beam were performed to verify the

accuracy of the numerical model. We were able to calibrate the

model for the width of the process zone as well. The ratio of Kn/

Knp = 1012 will reproduce the process zone observed in the laboratory testing of Berea sandstone [32]. The following mechanical

properties were obtained: E = 13.3 GPa, m = 0.19, rc = 60.5 MPa,

and rN = 8.7 MPa (three-point bending tensile strength) that with

the exception of the Poissons ratio are in close agreement with

the mechanical properties of Berea sandstone. The difference

between the physical and simulated values of Poissons ratio is

expected to have a small impact on the numerical results; the Poissons effect on stress distribution should not be signicant when

lateral deformation is not constrained which is the case in the

three-point bending tests studied in this paper.

Fig. 3 demonstrates the stressstrain curves of the numerical

and experimental Berea sandstones in the uniaxial compressive

tests. The two curves are in good agreement if the initial deformation of the physical specimen is ignored. The early portion of the

curve in the physical test is known to be caused by the closure of

the space between the specimen and the loading platen (also

referred to as machine seating) as well as closure of existing microcracks in the specimen. In the numerical model such phenomena

are absent and therefore, the initial curvature of the stressstrain

curve cannot be captured. Note that as suggested by Fig. 3, there

is a variation as great as 18% in the uniaxial compressive strength

of the physical specimens (rc = 5565 MPa) and that the numerical

test result lies within the physical range.

The micromechanical properties that were obtained through

sample calibration are reported in Table 1. The radii of circular particles (R) were assumed to have a uniform random distribution

ranging from 0.27 to 0.33 mm with an average radius of Rave =

0.3 mm. In order to study the effect of particle size on the process

zone, two other particle radii of 0.6 (with a radius range of 0.54

0.66 mm) and 1.2 mm (with a radius range of 1.081.32 mm) were

used. To obtain relatively similar macro-properties for the three

synthetic materials with three different particle sizes, the normal

and shear bonds (nb and sb) for materials with larger particle radius

(R) need to be increased in proportion to the average radius (Rave)

of the particles, but the normal and shear stiffnesses (Kn and Ks) do

not need any modication (see Table 1). The normal and shear

stiffnesses mostly affect the elastic modulus (E) and Poissons ratio

(m) whereas normal and shear bonds have great impact on the uniaxial compressive and tensile strengths of the material [19,21]. The

increase in normal and shear bonds in proportion to the particle

radius causes no change in normal and shear contact strengths.

Normal contact strength (rn = nb/2R) and shear contact strength

(rs = sb/2R) should remain constant in the three different simulated

rocks. In addition to the micro-mechanical parameters, the corresponding macro-mechanical properties obtained for different

synthetic materials are reported in Table 1.

Beams with different sizes were generated from these three

synthetic materials with different particle sizes. Numerical

three-point bending tests (Fig. 4) were conducted on ve different

beam sizes of 20 60, 40 120, 80 240, 160 480 and

320 960 mm. The rst number in each beam size shows the

beam height and the second number is its span. A small applied

vertical velocity at the top center of each beam (2.5 1010 meter

per numerical cycle) and a damping force proportional to the

unbalanced force or moment of each particle was used in order

to achieve a quasi-static solution [33]. The ratio of notch length

to beam height (a0/D = 0.375) was assumed to be constant for all

three-point bending tests. The slope of the softening line (Knp)

was modied to obtain different quasi-brittle synthetic materials.

Five different synthetic materials ranging from perfectly brittle

(Kn/Knp = 0) to less brittle (Kn/Knp = 100) were used in this analysis.

c = 55 MPa

50

40

30

20

10

Numerical result

Experimental result

0

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.0

Fig. 3. Stressstrain curves of the numerical and experimental Berea sandstone

specimens in the uniaxial compression tests. The observed maximum and

minimum values of the compressive strengths of the physical specimens are

shown in the gure.

Table 1

Micro-mechanical and macro-mechanical properties for samples with different

particle sizes.

Properties

Micro-mechanical

Kn (GPa)

Ks (GPa)

Knp (GPa)

nb (N/m)

sb (N/m)

l

r0/Kn

R = 0.3 (mm)

R = 0.6 (mm)

R = 1.2 (mm)

22

5.5

1.83

2800

12,300

0.5

0.1

22

5.5

1.83

5600

24,600

0.5

0.1

22

5.5

1.83

11,200

49,200

0.5

0.1

13.6

0.18

63.6

6.1

13.2

0.18

71.0

6.2

Macro-mechanical

E (GPa)

13.3

m

0.19

rc (MPa)

60.5

rt (MPa)

6.1

Kn is the normal stiffness and Ks is the shear stiffness. Knp is the slope of the softening line.

nb is the normal bond and sb is the shear bond.

l is the friction coefcient and ro is the genesis pressure in sample preparation.

E is the elastic modulus whereas m is the Possions ratio.

rc and rt are the uniaxial compressive and tensile strengths of the material,

respectively.

D

a0

S

Fig. 4. Three-point bending test set-up in discrete element simulation.

Fig. 5 shows the different Kn/Knp values used on the normal forcenormal displacement graph. Other micromechanical constants

were left unchanged for each particle size.

Inspection of the rc values in Table 1 suggests a 15% increase in

the uniaxial compressive strength from R = 0.3 mm to R = 1.2 mm.

54

Fn (Tension)

Knp= 0

nb

Kn/Knp= 10

Quasi-brittle

Kn/Knp= 20

Kn/Knp= 50

Kn/Knp= 100

Kn/Knp= ---Perfectly Plastic

Kn/Knp=

Perfectly Plastic

Knp

Kn

1

1

Kn

Knp=

Un

Kn/Knp= 0

Perfectly Brittle

A

Fn (Compression)

Fig. 5. Demonstration of the effect of Kn/Knp values on the material behavior. By

increasing Kn/Knp value, we move from perfectly brittle to perfectly plastic

materials.

This difference is not considered signicant as even in the laboratory testing, the compressive strength of one specic type of rock

from the same block could vary noticeably. The Berea sandstone

strength used in our calibration varied by 18% (rc = 5565 MPa).

Serena sandstone has been reported to have a rc = 100120 MPa

which shows a 20% difference in its strength [34].

Note that the bending tensile strength of the simulated specimen (rN = 8.7 MPa) is greater than that in uniaxial testing

(rt = 6.1 MPa in Table 1). The higher value of the bending tensile

strength (modulus of rupture) is consistent with the physical

observation [35].

3. Numerical results

3.1. Uniaxial compressive and tensile tests

Uniaxial compressive strength (rc) and tensile strength (rt) are

the most common parameters used to describe the strength of

rocks. Several numerical uniaxial compressive and tensile tests

with different particle size and various material ductilities (i.e. different Kn/Knp values) were conducted. The size of the rectangular

specimen in the uniaxial tests was 40 80 (width length) mm.

Fig. 6a shows a numerical specimen under uniaxial compression

loading. The upper and lower nite element grids are used as the

loading platens. The interface between the nite element grid

and the particles were modeled by using normal and shear springs

(Kn = Ks = 100 GPa). The friction coefcient of this interface was

assumed to be zero. Details of the mathematical description of

the interface between the grid and the particles have been discussed in [17]. The lower platen moves with a constant quasi-static

upward velocity of 0.2 108 meter per cycle whereas the top of

the upper platen is xed in the vertical direction. The axial stress,

axial and lateral deformation are recorded during loading. The lateral deformation is simply calculated by means of two nite element grids that are glued to the lateral sides of the numerical

specimen. The use of these nite element grids facilitates the measurement of lateral displacement compared to calculating the individual ball displacements from the model. In order to avoid any

kind of unreal resistance of the material, a low elastic modulus is

used for the two nite element grids glued to the lateral sides of

the specimen. The lateral deformation is used to calculate the Poissons ratio. Fig. 6b illustrates a numerical specimen under uniaxial

tensile loading. Similar to the uniaxial compression loading, the

upper and lower nite element grids are used as the loading platens. The top of the upper platen is xed in the vertical direction

while the lower platen moves with a constant downward quasistatic velocity of 0.2 108 meter per cycle. The interfaces

between the circular particles in contact with the platens are

bonded so that no cracks could develop along these interfaces.

The axial stress and axial deformation were recorded during the

loading.

Fig. 7 depicts the stressstrain curves for the synthetic materials with different material ductilities (different Kn/Knp values) for

the particle size (Rave) of 0.3 mm. The values for the compressive

and tensile strengths are reported in Table 2.

From these results it is observed that the Kn/Knp ratio has little

inuence on the compressive strength of the simulated materials

(for different R values) whereas it has affected the tensile strength;

in the uniaxial compression test, the failure mechanism is governed by a combination of the effects of shear and tensile cracks

whereas in the uniaxial tension test, majority of the induced damages are tensile cracks. This means that changing the tension softening parameters (i.e. the ratio of Kn/Knp) will have a stronger

impact on the tensile strength compared to the compressive

strength of the simulated material. Therefore, the value of Kn/Knp

has an impact on the rc/rt (compressive to tensile strength) ratio;

as Kn/Knp increases, rc/rt decreases for all particle sizes. This is

expected because with increase in Kn/Knp, the simulated material

becomes less brittle. This is consistent with the general behavior

of materials. More brittle materials such as rock typically show

high ratio of uniaxial compressive strength to tensile strength.

On the other hand, for ductile metals, the ratio of compressive to

tensile strength is normally close to one.

Fig. 6. Demonstration of the numerical tests for (a) uniaxial compressive test and (b) uniaxial tensile test. The arrows represent the loading direction while the crosses at the

top represent the xed displacement in x and y directions. The two nite element grids used to measure the lateral displacement are shown in Fig. 6a.

55

80

70

60

10

12

Brittle

Kn/Knp=10

Kn/Knp=20

Kn/Knp=50

Kn/Knp=100

50

40

30

20

8

6

4

Brittle

Kn/Knp=10

Kn/Knp=20

Kn/Knp=50

Kn/Knp=100

10

0

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

0.0

0.1

0.2

0.3

(a)

(b)

0.4

0.5

Fig. 7. Axial stress vs. axial strain for numerical specimens with Kn/Knp = 0 (perfectly brittle), 10, 20, 50, 100 and R = 0.3 mm. (a) Uniaxial compressive test. (b) Uniaxial tensile

test.

Table 2

Uniaxial compressive and tensile strengths of the numerical specimens with different particle sizes.

rc (MPa)

Kn/Knp

rt (MPa)

rc/rt

R = 0.3 (mm)

R = 0.6 (mm)

R = 1.2 (mm)

R = 0.3 (mm)

R = 0.6 (mm)

R = 1.2 (mm)

R = 0.3 (mm)

R = 0.6 (mm)

R = 1.2 (mm)

57.9

63.1

64.8

66.3

73.1

57.5

64.2

64.4

74.5

82.4

63.1

70.6

71.2

68.5

73.0

4.2

5.6

7.0

8.6

10.7

4.9

6.1

6.5

8.1

9.8

5.4

6.1

6.8

8.7

10.6

13.8

11.3

9.3

7.7

6.8

11.7

10.5

9.9

9.2

8.4

11.7

11.6

10.5

7.9

6.9

0

10

20

50

100

The main goal of this work was to study the effect of particle size

on the width of the fracture process zone in the vicinity of the notch

tip. The process zone in the numerical model is dened with contact

points between circular particles that are in the post peak regime

(e.g. point D in Fig. 2a). These damaged contact points for a specimen size of 40 120 mm and Kn/Knp = 20 with particle size of

Rave = 0.6 mm at two different loading stages are shown in Fig. 8.

The damaged contacts are shown in blue while the actual sharp

crack inside the process zone has been shown in red. It is interesting

to note that the width of the process zone at the tip of the propagating crack remains constant. Furthermore, the width of the process

zone at the crack tip is almost identical to the width of the damage

zone surrounding the crack. This is expected as with the extension

of the main crack, unloading of the damaged zone around the crack

prevails. This prevents further widening of the damaged zone.

Fig. 9 illustrates the width of the process zone vs. the particle

size for the synthetic materials with different beam sizes. This gure suggests that:

(i) For a xed Kn/Knp value and a xed beam size (D), the width

of the process zone (W) increases when the particle size (R)

increases.

(ii) For a xed Kn/Knp value and a xed particle size (R), the

width of the process zone (W) increases as the beam sizes

(D) increases.

In a previous work, Fakhimi and Tarokh [36] suggested the following equation for the width of fracture process zone (W):

W 1b

1 b

Fig. 8. The width of the fracture process zone at the crack tip for the specimen size

of 40 120 mm with R = 0.6 mm, a0/D = 0.375, and Kn/Knp = 20 at (a) the peak load

(b) 80% of the peak load in the post peak.

width of the process zone for very large specimens. The structural

response is not physically similar when varying the size scale of a

body. As the size of a structure increases, it has been documented

experimentally that the failure mode changes from the plastic collapse to the brittle failure. To characterize the brittleness of the

structural response quantitatively, various denitions of the socalled brittleness numbers have been proposed [3739]. The D in

the brittleness number (b) dened by Bazant [39] stands for the

effective structural dimension (e.g. the specimen height) and D0 is

a constant with the dimension of length. D0 depends on the fracture

properties of the material and on the geometry (shape) of the structure, but not on the structure size [30]. Eq. (1) suggests that as the

brittleness of the material increases (i.e. lower Kn/Knp), the width of

56

16

60

W (mm)

12

W (mm)

80

D=20 mm

D=40 mm

D=80 mm

D=160 mm

D=320 mm

D=20 mm

D=40 mm

D=80 mm

D=160 mm

D=320 mm

40

20

0

0.0

0.3

0.6

0.9

1.2

0

0.0

1.5

0.3

0.6

0.9

R (mm)

R (mm)

(a)

(b)

1.2

1.5

Fig. 9. Fracture process zone width vs. particle radius for different beam sizes for (a) Kn/Knp = 20 and (b) Kn/Knp = 50.

120

Kn/Knp=20

Kn/Knp=50

Kn/Knp=100

0.2

y = 1.9176x + 0.0160

R = 0.9989

80

60

40

0.1

y = 1.3382x + 0.0069

R = 0.9985

0.0

0.00

Kn/Knp=20

Kn/Knp=50

Kn/Knp=100

Fitting Kn/Knp=20

Fitting Kn/Knp=50

Fitting Kn/Knp=100

100

y = 3.6313x + 0.1047

R = 0.9914

W (mm)

W-1 (mm-1)

0.3

20

0

0.01

0.02

D-1

0.03

0.04

0.05

0.06

40

D (mm)

(mm-1)

(a)

(b)

Fig. 10. The relationships between (a) W1 and D1, (b) W and D for R = 0.6 mm.

the process zone becomes less dependent on the specimen size; for

a high brittleness number, the width of the process zone can be considered an intrinsic material property which will not change by

varying the specimen size. This nding is consistent with some

experimental evidences [32]. In order to nd D0 and W1, Eq. (1)

can be written in the linear form by

1

1

D0 1

W W1 W1 D

Table 3

The data from linear regression analysis of Eq. (1) for different particle sizes.

R (mm)

Kn/Knp

Slope

0.3

20

50

100

3.3947

2.1531

1.009

0.6

20

50

100

1.2

20

50

100

The variations of W1 vs. D1 for R = 0.6 mm and different Kn/Knp

values are shown in Fig. 10a. The slopes (D0/W1) and y-intercepts

(1/W1) obtained from these plots were used to calculate the D0

and W1 reported in Table 3. The linear trend observed in the variation of W1 vs. D1 conrms the ability of Eq. (1) to predict the

variation of the width of the process zone with the specimen size.

In Fig. 10b, the width of the process zone (W) as a function of specimen height (D) is shown. The tting curves predicted by Eq. (1) are

in close agreement with the numerical data; Eq. (1) can closely

model the numerical data. This equation has been shown to closely

model the experimental data as well [32].

Bazant and Planas [30] suggested two linear and a non-linear

regression method in nding the D0 values. Depending on the

method used, different D0 values are obtained. The use of the width

of process zone is yet another approach in nding the D0 values.

The D0 values from the table suggest that:

y-Intercept (mm1)

W1 (mm)

D0 (mm)

0.2181

0.0197

0.0099

4.6

50.8

101.0

15.6

109.3

141.3

3.6313

1.9176

1.3382

0.1047

0.0160

0.0069

9.6

62.5

144.9

34.7

119.9

193.9

2.8500

1.7182

1.3487

0.0615

0.0143

0.0050

16.3

69.9

200.0

46.3

120.2

269.7

(i) For a xed Kn/Knp value, D0 increases when the particle size (R)

increases. Therefore, for a specic beam size (i.e. xed D), the

brittleness number (b = D/D0) reduces as the particle size

increases. When the brittleness number decreases, less brittle

behavior should be expected [30]. This implies that as the particle size increases, the behavior becomes less brittle.

(ii) For xed particle (R) and beam sizes (D), with increase in Kn/

Knp, D0 increases which results in the decrease in the brittleness number. This is also expected because when Kn/Knp

increases the material will have a larger process zone. The

larger the process zone, the less brittle the material

behavior.

57

120

size [36] and particle size. By increasing the compressive strength

of the simulated rock (i.e. only increasing the normal and shear

bonds nb and sb in the numerical model) and leaving the rest of

the micro-mechanical parameters, specimen size (D) and particle

size (R) constant, the width of the process zone will not change.

For example if we consider two specimens of 80 240 mm with

Kn/Knp = 20 and Rave = 0.6 mm, but with different uniaxial compressive strengths (for rock beam 1, rc = 64.4 MPa and for rock beam 2,

rc = 130 MPa as nb and sb are doubled in specimen 2), the width of

the process zone will be about 6 mm for both cases (Fig. 11). Therefore, the compressive strength does not have an effect on the process zone dimensions. This is also true for the applied

displacement. In this example, the amount of displacement in

the second rock is higher than the displacement in the rst rock

while the size of the process zone is identical in both cases.

Fig. 12 shows the loaddisplacement curves for these two different

cases.

100

In this section, dimensional analysis [40,41] is used to obtain

relationships between the fracture parameters and the particle

radius (R). The fracture toughness of the synthetic material is

assumed to be a function of the following parameters: Kn, Ks, nb,

sb, r0, Knp, R, and l, i.e.

K IC f1 K n ; K s ; nb ; sb ; r0 ; K np ; R; l

The effect of sb is ignored. This is due to the fact that only mode I

loading (opening mode) is considered in this study. Therefore, only

seven parameters inuencing the fracture toughness will remain.

Considering the two independent dimensions, i.e. length and force

that are used to describe the parameters in Eq. (3), ve (7 2 = 5)

dimensionless parameters will be required to fully describe the

relationship between the fracture toughness and the micromechanical parameters. These ve dimensionless parameters are

introduced in the following:

K n K n nb r0

;

;

; ;l

K s K np RK n K n

K IC

Kn

p f2

K

np

rn R

80

60

40

20

0

0.0

0.1

0.2

Displacement (mm)

Fig. 12. Load vs. displacement for rock beam 1 (rc = 64.4 MPa) and rock beam 2

(rc = 130 MPa).

from numerical analysis are shown in Fig. 13 which indicates that

the dimensionless fracture toughness has a linear relationship with

the Kn/Knp parameter for the range of Kn/Knp values used in this

study. The apparent fracture toughness (KICA) for a single-edge

cracked specimen under three-point bending for arbitrary depth

to span ratio, could be calculated by

p

K ICA rN D

1 2a1 a1:5

PS=D a

depth, S is the specimen span, a is the ratio of notch length to specimen depth (a0/D), and PS/D(a) is a shape factor. The expression for

PS/D(a) can be determined by [42]

PS=D a P 1 a 4

D

P4 a P1 a

S

1:2231 a3

The four parameters nb/RKn, Kn/Ks, r0/Kn, and l are xed in our

study. Therefore, the following dimensionless equation could be

written:

Load (kN)

Rock Beam 1

Rock Beam 2

1:2261 a2

4

60

Linear (All particle sizes)

50

y = 0.45x + 5.09

R = 0.99

40

30

20

10

0

0

Fig. 11. Process zone for a 80 240 mm notched beam at 80% of peak load in the

post peak with Kn/Knp = 20 and Rave = 0.6 mm for a synthetic rock with (a)

rc = 64.4 MPa and (b) rc = 130 MPa.

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90 100

Kn /Knp

Fig. 13. The relationship between dimensionless fracture toughness and Kn/Knp.

apparent fracture toughness KICA, (1/KICA)2 is plotted vs. 1/D.

According to Eq. (5), a linear relationship should be expected. From

this plot, the KIC value corresponding to very large specimens (1/D

equal to zero) is obtained [36].

The dependence of the fracture toughness to the square root of

particle radius in Eq. (4) is consistent with that reported by Potyondy and Cundall [43] and Huang et al. [41] for an ideally brittle

material (Kn/Knp = 0).

A dimensional analysis similar to that used for the fracture

toughness for the direct tensile strength of the synthetic material

shows that:

rt

Kn

f

rn 3 K np

150

y = 20.02x + 47.05

R = 0.90

100

50

y = 12.72x + 1.23

R = 0.99

0.0

0.3

0.6

0.9

1.2

1.5

R (mm)

W 1 nlch

10

size is dened by

2

K IC

11

rt

obtain

W1

200

y = 107.39x + 73.47

R = 0.98

tensile strength with the Kn/Knp parameter for the range of Kn/Knp

values used in this study.

In Fig. 15, the variation of W1 vs. the radius of particles for different synthetic materials is shown. The values of W1 are obtained

from Table 3. Notice that a linear relationship between W1 and the

particle size (R) exists for a given value of Kn/Knp; by increasing the

radius of particles in the material, W1 increases which results in a

less brittle behavior of the material as for an ideal brittle material,

the thickness of the process zone is zero.

It has been claimed that the size of the process zone in the mode

I loading for a very large structure is proportional to the characteristic size [30], i.e.

lch

Kn/Knp=20

Kn/Knp=50

Kn/Knp=100

Linear (Kn/Knp=20)

Linear (Kn/Knp=50)

Linear (Kn/Knp=100)

250

W (mm)

58

2

K IC

nlch n

n

rt

p!2

rn f 2 R

rn f 3

0 12

f2 KKnpn

Rn@ A

f3 KKnpn

12

process zone and the size (radius) of particles. It is important to

note that the bond strength between particles (rn) that is the

major factor in controlling the material tensile or compressive

strength is cancelled in Eq. (12). This indicates that the width of

Linear (All particle sizes)

t /n

2

y = 0.01x + 1.15

R = 0.94

0

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90 100

Kn /Knp

Fig. 14. The relationship between dimensionless tensile strength and Kn/Knp.

Fig. 15. Variation of W1 vs. particle radius (R) for different synthetic materials

(different Kn/Knp values).

process zone is independent of the material strength. This observation is consistent with the results of numerical simulation reported

in Section 3.3 of the paper.

4. Discussion of the results

Preceding discussions demonstrate that the width of the process zone increases as the radius of particles increases and that this

increase is a linear function of the particle size. To display physical

supports for ndings of this study, some experimental observations regarding the effect of grain size in rock or maximum aggregate size in concrete have been reviewed. The work of Otsuka and

Date [5] was concentrated on concrete. They performed tensile

tests on different sample sizes. X-ray and three-dimensional

Acoustic Emission (AE) techniques were used to investigate the

process zone around the notch tip. They calculated the energy of

individual events from the square of the amplitude of the wave

multiplied by the incremental duration time. They considered the

region associated with over 95% of the total AE energy to be related

directly to the fracture of concrete and called this area the fracture

process zone (FPZ). In this area, more densely distributed AE events

were observed. The area that contains 70% of the total AE energy is

referred to the fracture core zone (FCZ). The shape and the size of

FCZ are identical to the microcrack zone obtained by X-ray inspections. It is important to note here that the same trend is observed

for both the FPZ and FCZ, i.e. if the size of one of them increases, the

size of the other one will increase as well. Fig. 16 demonstrates the

FPZ and FCZ in the work of Otsuka and Date [5].

Otsuka and Date [5] used different concrete specimens with different maximum aggregate sizes. All specimens had a constant

uniaxial compressive strength of 20 MPa. They observed that when

the specimen size is identical, the width of FPZ and FCZ both

increase with the increase of the maximum aggregate size. They

demonstrated a linear relationship between the width of FCZ and

the maximum aggregate size (Fig. 17).

Apart from some data scatter, Fig. 17 displays an approximate

linear relationship between the width of FCZ and the aggregate size

which supports the numerical simulation nding in this paper. It is

important to realize that in the work of these authors, the same

material with a constant strength was used and only the aggregate

sizes were modied. This is consistent with the assumptions made

in this study as the tensile and compressive strengths of the synthetic materials used in the numerical modeling were almost constant (see Table 2). It should be emphasized that typically

aggregates do not fail and their action is to arrest the tensile cracks

which are developed through the matrix (i.e. cement). This fact is

59

of the process zone and the grain size. This can be the reason for

inconsistency of the current results with those reported by these

authors.

Brooks et al. [13] investigated the role of grain size in fracture

process zone development of two different marbles with different

grain sizes using the nano-indentation technique. Although the

extent of the fracture process zone dened by these authors was

based on the observation of the reduction of nanomechanical properties, their work provided a support for the increase in the size of

the fracture process zone (distance of nanomechanical property

reduction) with the grain size. The uniform mineralogy of both

marbles (mainly calcite) made the grain size the sole controlling

parameter in their study.

Fig. 16. Fracture process zone and fracture core zone (after Otsuka and Date [5]).

5. Conclusions

also consistent with the assumption made in the model that the

cracks develop along the contact interfaces and the particles

remain intact. The scatter of the data in Fig. 17 suggests that the

width of the process zone can vary even if tests are performed

on the apparently similar quasi-brittle materials with the same

particle size distribution. This can be caused by the random distribution of the location of the particles and initial microscopic

defects. We expect that as the intensity of initial defects and the

rock porosity are increased, a wider process zone to be obtained.

In fact it has been recently shown through some physical tests that

greater porosity can result in a greater process zone within a quasibrittle material [44]. This issue needs to be addressed in future

numerical studies.

Zietlow and Labuz [3] studied the fracture process zone in different rock types using acoustic emission measurements. They

suggested a linear relation between the normalized process zone

width (x = W/D) and the logarithm of the normalized average

grain size (d = dave/D); a non-linear relationship between the grain

size and the size of the process zone was suggested. What should

be noted here from the work of Zietlow and Labuz [3] is that their

proposed equation was based on the test results on four different

rock types which in general can have different bonding material

and initial defects. The interfacial material between the particles

and the initial defects have proven to have strong inuences on

the properties of composite materials like concrete and rock.

Therefore, to study the effect of grain size or aggregate size on fracture process zone dimensions, one particular rock or concrete but

with different grain size or aggregate size should be studied; the

effect of different contact bond material and initial micro-cracks

has possibly caused a non-linear relationship between the width

A two-dimensional discrete element model with tension softening was used to study the effect of particle size on the width of the

fracture process zone in quasi-brittle materials like rock. The rock

was idealized as an assembly of unbreakable grains that interact

through the contact points. The contact points can break if the

applied normal or shear force exceeds the normal or shear bonds

(contact strengths). It was found that the width of the process zone

is in general a function of both the specimen and particle sizes. It

was also shown that the width of the process zone is a linear function of the radius of particles. The discrepancy in the literature

regarding the effect of particle size on the size of fracture process

zone in quasi-brittle materials could be a result of conducting

experimental tests on materials with different bonding characteristics and initial defects. With the numerical tests such as the

method implemented in this study, all the relevant parameters in

fracture of a material can be held unchanged while the particle size

is modied. This allows the effect of this single parameter to be

studied in details. The analysis of the numerical results indicates

that the discrete element method with a tension softening contact

bond model is able to mimic the effect of particle size on the width

of the process zone in quasi-brittle materials and that it can be

used as a reliable tool to study crack initiation and propagation

in mode I (opening mode) loading condition.

Acknowledgment

The authors acknowledge the valuable discussions and comments provided by professors Otto D.L Strack and Joseph F. Labuz

at the University of Minnesota.

References

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60

40

20

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dmax (mm)

Fig. 17. Relationship between maximum aggregate size and the width of the FCZ

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