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Basic elements for

Fracture Mechanics

Teodoro Merlini Release 1.0.0

Politecnico di Milano May 2013

Course Nonlinear Analysis of Aerospace Structures (Analisi non lineare di strutture aerospaziali)
Lecture notes for personal use of attendant students
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 2


1. Introduction 4. Subcritical Crack Growth

1. Strength failures 1. Fatigue crack growth
2. Historical overview 2. Overload retardation effect
3. Residual strength 3. Crack closure effect
2. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics 4. Stress corrosion
5. Computer programs
1. Griffith energy balance
2. Stress intensity approach References
3. Crack Tip Plasticity
4. Fracture modes
3. Elastic-Plastic Fracture Mechanics
1. COD and J-integral

Material extracted and rearranged from:

Janssen-Zuidema-Wanhill (2004),
Sanford (2003), and Anderson (1995)
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 3
1. Introduction contents
1.1 Strength failures
Two types of strength failures of load bearing structures
Yielding-dominant Fracture-dominant – Fracture before net section
(general plasticity) general yielding (highly localized plasticity)
Defects are important for both types of failure, but those of primary importance to fracture differ in an
extreme way from those influencing yielding and the resistance to plastic flow.
The significant defects are those which tend to warp The size scale of the defects which are of major
and interrupt the crystal lattice planes; they interfere significance is essentially macroscopic, since general
with dislocation glide and provide a resistance to plasticity is not involved but only the local stress-
plastic deformation that is essential to the strength of strain fields associated with the defects. Significant
high strength metals. Significant defects are, e.g.: defects are, e.g.:
• Interstitials and out-of-size substitutional atoms • Weld flows
• Grain boundaries • Porosity
• Coherent precipitates • Forging laps
• Dislocation networks • Fatigue and stress corrosion cracks
Larger defects like inclusions, porosity, surface The minute lattice-related defects which control
scratches and small cracks may influence the effective resistance to plastic flow are not of direct concern;
net section bearing the load, but otherwise have little they are important insofar as the resistance to plastic
effect on resistance to yielding. flow is related to the material’s susceptibility to
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 4
1. Introduction contents
1.2 Historical overview (1/2)
Fracture mechanics is concerned almost entirely with fracture-dominant failure. The first
successful analysis of a fracture-dominant problem is due to Griffith (1920), who formulated the
concept that an existing crack will propagate if thereby the total energy of the system is lowered.
He assumed that there is a simple energy balance, consisting of a decrease in elastic strain energy
within the stressed body as the crack extends, counteracted by the energy needed to create the
new crack surfaces. His theory allows the estimation of the theoretical strength of brittle solids
and gives the relationship between fracture strength and defect size.
Later, after World War II, Irwin pointed out that in the Griffith-type energy balance, the decrease
in elastic strain energy should balance the energy needed to create the new crack surfaces plus
the work done in plastic deformation. Irwin defined the energy release rate, or crack driving
force, as the total energy G that is released during cracking per unit increase in crack size. He also
recognized that for relatively ductile materials the energy required to form new crack surfaces is
generally insignificant compared to the work done in plastic deformation.

In the middle 1950s Irwin contributed another major advance by showing that the energy
approach is equivalent to a stress intensity (K) approach, according to which fracture occurs
when a critical stress distribution ahead of the crack tip is reached. The material property
governing fracture may therefore be stated either as a critical stress intensity Kc, or in terms of
energy as a critical energy release rate Gc.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 5
1. Introduction contents
1.2 Historical overview (2/2)

Demonstration of the equivalence of G and K provided the basis for development of the
discipline of Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics (LEFM). This is because the form of the stress
distribution around and close to a crack tip is always the same. Thus tests on suitably shaped and
loaded specimens to determine Kc make it possible to determine what cracks or crack-like flaws
are tolerable in an actual structure under given conditions. It has also been found that the
sensitivity of structures to subcritical cracking such as fatigue crack growth and stress corrosion
can, to some extent, be predicted on the basis of tests using the stress intensity approach.
The beginnings of Elastic-Plastic Fracture Mechanics (EPFM) can be traced to the 1960s. Notable
contributions are Wells’ work on Crack Opening Displacement (COD), and Rice’s introduction of
an elastic-plastic fracture parameter with a more theoretical basis, the J-integral. Although both
COD and J are now well established concepts, EPFM is still very much an evolving discipline,
because of the greater complexity of elastic-plastic analyses. Important topics are the description
of stable ductile crack growth and the development of failure assessment methods that combine
the effects of plasticity and fracture.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 6
1. Introduction contents
1.3 Residual strength

Consider a structure with a pre-existing crack. The crack may grow with time (e.g. fatigue or
stress corrosion) and will generally grow
stress time crack propagation
progressively faster. The residual curve
material tensile
strength of the structure, which is strength
time available for
the failure strength as a function of crack detection
crack size, decreases with increasing strength lost
crack size. After a time the residual stress level residual strength
strength becomes so low that the curve
structure may fail in service. min detectable max permissible crack length
crack size crack size

Fracture mechanics attempts to provide quantitative answers to important questions like:

1. What is the residual strength as a function of crack size?
2. What is the maximum permissible crack size?
3. How long does it take for a crack to grow from a certain initial size (e.g. the minimum
detectable crack size) to the maximum permissible crack size?
4. What is the service life of a structure when a crack-like flaw (e.g. a manufacturing defect) with
a certain size is assumed to exist?
5. During the period available for crack detection how often should the structure be inspected?
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 7
2. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics contents
2.1 Griffith energy balance (1/5)
Consider an infinite plate of linear elastic isotropic material (Young’s modulus E and Poisson’s
ratio n) subjected to a uniform tensile planar stress s. For a thin plate, under the assumption of
plane stress, the stored elastic energy per unit volume is ½ s2/E. For a thick plate, a plane strain
assumption is more appropriate, and the elastic energy density will be given by ½ s2 (1 – n2)/E.
It is customary to unify the notation for the two cases E  E for plane stress
by resorting to a conveniently defined modulus E '. E
E  for plane strain
Therefore, the elastic energy density writes ½ s /E '.
1 n 2
Then, introduce a transversal through-thickness crack within the plate. In the area directly above
and below the crack the axial stress decreases and becomes zero along the crack flanks. So, the
introduction of the crack will change the elastic strain energy stored in the plate.
For a rough estimate of this change assume that in a circle-shaped s
area of radius a around the crack the stress has become zero, while
the same stress as before holds in the remainder of the plate. In this
case the elastic energy in the plate has decreased by an amount
equal to the original elastic energy density times the volume of the
stress-free material, that is ½ ps2a2/E ' per unit thickness. 2a
Griffith used an accurate stress analysis to show that for an infinite
plate the elastic energy change (per unit thickness) is actually given
by twice this value, ps2a2/E '.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 8
2. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics contents
2.1 Griffith energy balance (2/5)
The introduction of the crack requires a certain amount of energy. Griffith assumed that for
ideally brittle materials this energy is in the form of a surface energy. A crack with length 2a in
a plate involves the creation of a crack surface area (defined per unit thickness) equal to 2·(2a)
= 4a, leading to a surface energy (per unit thickness) 4age , with ge the energy per unit crack
surface area needed to break atomic bonds across a lattice plane.
Denote by: U0 the total energy of the plate and its loading system before introducing
(all energies per the crack (a constant).
unit thickness) Ua the elastic strain energy change in the plate caused by introducing the
crack with length 2a, namely Ua = – ps2a2/E ' (an energy decrease).
Ug the energy needed to create the new crack surfaces (surface energy),
i.e. Ug = 4age .
F the work performed by the loading system during the introduction of
the crack.
The total energy of the plate and its loading system before introducing the crack is U = U0.
After introducing the crack the total energy becomes U = U0 + Ua + Ug – F .
Work F must be subtracted as the combination plate-and-loading system is assumed to be isolated
from its surroundings: therefore, if the loading system performs work it goes at the expense of the
energy content of the loading system and therefore lowers the total energy U.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 9
2. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics contents
2.1 Griffith energy balance (3/5)
A plate with finite dimensions is like an infinite plate when 2a << W, the plate width. If the plate is
loaded by a constant displacement (the fixed grip condition), then no work is done by the loading
system during crack introduction and the term F vanishes. Introducing a crack leads to a decrease
in elastic strain energy of the plate because the plate loses stiffness and the load applied by the
fixed grips drops. The total energy of a finite plate ps2 a 2
U  U0  Ua  U g  U0   4a g e
loaded with fixed grips becomes approximately … E
Following Griffith, crack extension will occur when U decreases. In order to formulate a criterion
for crack extension, consider an increase of the crack length by d(2a). The term U0 is constant,
and since no work is done by the loading system, the driving force for crack extension can be
delivered only by the decrease in elastic energy dUa due to the crack length increase d(2a): the
crack will extend when the available energy dUa is larger than the energy required dUg .
energy Ug
Therefore the criterion for crack extension is
dU d(U a  U g ) d  ps2 a 2 
Ua + Ug     4a g e   0
d(2a) d(2a) d(2a)  E 
introduced crack
length 2a
When the elastic energy release due to a potential
Ua increment of crack growth d(2a) outweighs the demand for
stable unstable surface energy for the same crack growth, the introduction
dU/d(2a) > 0 dU/d(2a) < 0 of a crack will lead to its (even unstable) propagation.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 10
2. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics contents
2.1 Griffith energy balance (4/5)
2E g e
The criterion for crack extension can be written ps2a/E ' > 2ge , or s a 
The crack extension in ideally brittle materials is governed by the product of the remotely applied
stress and the square root of the crack length and by the material properties E ' and ge. Thus,
crack extension in such materials occurs when the product sa attains a certain critical value.
Irwin designated the quantity G = ps2a/E ' as the energy release rate: it represents the energy
(per unit new crack surface area) that is available for infinitesimal crack extension ([G] = [FL–1]).
The quantity R = 2ge is designated as the crack resistance: it represents the surface energy
increase (per unit new crack surface area) that would occur for an infinitesimal crack extension
([R] = [FL–1]). Hence, G must exceed a critical value Gc = R
G  Gc  R
before crack growth occurs, therefore for crack extension it must be …
If R = 2ge is a constant, the critical value Gc = R is a material constant. The critical value Gc can
be easily determined by measuring the critical stress sc required to fracture a plate with a crack of
size 2a, or by measuring the critical crack size 2ac needed to fracture a plate loaded by a stress s.
In general, R may not be a constant, but may depend on the crack length itself. A constant R is
observed only for the condition of plane strain; for plane stress and intermediate conditions R is
no longer constant. In case of relatively thin plates, when an existing crack begins to extend at a
certain stress, if the stress is maintained no further crack growth occurs, indicating that a small
increase in crack length at this stress would result in G < R ; a slight increase in the stress,
instead, results in additional crack extension, however the situation remains stable for a while.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 11
2. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics contents
2.1 Griffith energy balance (5/5)
The process of increasing stress accompanied by stable crack growth continues until a critical
combination of stress (sc) and crack length (ac) is reached, at which point instability occurs.
Crack instability is thus preceded by a certain amount of slow stable crack growth unstable crack growth
stable crack growth in plane stress condition. Crack begins dG/da < dR/da dG/da > dR/da
to extend at a stress such that G = R; then it slowly grows at
G  s2a G(s4,ac) = R(a2)
increasing stress. During this stable crack growth both G and R(a)
R increase and keep equal to each other. At the stress for G(s3,a1) = R(a1)
G(s2,a0) = R(a0)
which G(a) is tangent to the curve R(a), the crack length ac G(s1,a0) < R(a0)
is critical since beyond this point G would become greater
than R and instability occurs. For crack instability to occur a0 a1 a2 = ac a
in plane stress it is not only necessary to have at least G > R, but also the tangency condition
dG/da > dR/da should be fulfilled. This second condition is a consequence of a rising R–curve.
As suggested by Irwin, the Griffith theory for ideally brittle materials has been later modified and
applied to both brittle materials and ductile metals. The material resistance to crack extension is
determined by the sum of the surface energy ge and the plastic strain work gp that accompany
crack extension, R = 2(ge + gp). For relatively ductile materials gp >> ge , so R is mainly plastic
energy and the surface energy ge can be neglected.
Although this modification includes a plastic energy term, the energy balance approach to crack
extension is still limited to defining the conditions required for instability of an ideally sharp crack.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 12
2. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics contents
2.2 Stress intensity approach (1/3)

The energy balance approach presents problems for many practical situations, especially slow
stable crack growth, as for example in fatigue and stress corrosion cracking. An advance in
fracture mechanics was made by Irwin, who developed the stress intensity approach.

Linear elastic theory shows that the stresses K

y s ij  fij (q )
sij in the vicinity of the crack tip take the form … 2p r
q where r and q are the cylindrical polar co-ordinates of a point with
2a x respect to the crack tip, fij(q) are known dimensionless functions of
q, and K is a unique parameter for all stress components.

 Near the crack tip the stress determination is a singularity problem.

 Regardless of the geometry or type of loading, the stress distribution in the region
surrounding the crack tip has always the same functional form (form invariance).
 The magnitude of the stress distribution is controlled by a parameter K, referred to as the
(geometric) stress intensity factor. K varies with the geometry and the type of applied forces.
 In contrast to the solution of nonsingular problems in the theory of elasticity, in which both
the magnitude and the distribution are different for each problem, this form invariance is
unique to singularity-dominated crack problems.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 13
2. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics contents
2.2 Stress intensity approach (2/3)
From these observations the fundamental law of linear elastic brittle fracture follows: a material
body containing a crack-like defect will fail in brittle fracture when the state of stress in the
immediate neighborhood of the crack tip enclosing the fracture process zone reaches a critical
value. Thus, at the instant of fracture sij = sij|critical = Kc/(2pr)  fij(q). Since the distribution of
stress within the singularity-dominated zone is always the
K @ failure  K c
same, the law of brittle fracture is equivalent to state that …
where the critical Kc is a measure of the material resistance to fracture, like a material property.
Beware that K and Kc are fundamentally different quantities. The (geometric) stress intensity
factor K measures the magnitude of the applied stress field ([K] = [FL–2L1/2]). It is linearly
related to the exerted stress s and to the square root of a characteristic length, which has been
shown to be the crack length a. The general form of K is …
K  s p a f (a / W )
where s is the (remotely) applied stress and f(a/W) is a
dimensionless shape function that accounts for all the effects of the finite geometry (W is a size
parameter, typically the plate width). Values of K (or equivalently f(a/W)) for specific combinations
of geometry and applied loads are determined from conventional elastic stress analyses or from
experimental methods. Moreover, several handbooks give relationships between stress intensity
factor and many types of cracked bodies with different cracks and loading conditions.
On the other hand, the critical stress intensity factor Kc represent the fracture toughness and,
ideally, is a material property independent of the geometry used to measure its value. As a
material property, Kc can be determined only by experiments.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 14
2. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics contents
2.2 Stress intensity approach (3/3)
For an infinite plate with a central crack 2a the shape function is valued f(a/W) = 1 and K = s(pa).
Recalling that for this case the energy release rate is G = ps2a/E ', an important relation between
the energy balance approach and the stress intensity approach follows … E G  K 2
Irwin showed that this relation is valid for any problem geometry.
Therefore, as the energy release rate G must exceed a critical value Gc before crack growth occurs,
so the stress intensity factor K must exceed a critical value
that is connected with Gc, namely Kc = (E 'Gc) … K  K c  E R
An expression for the critical value follows, Kc = (2E '(ge + gp)).
The parameter governing fracture may therefore be stated as either a critical energy release rate
Gc or a critical stress intensity Kc. For tensile loading … E Gc  K c2
Thanks to the relation between the two approaches, in common practice the energy release and
its counterpart R-curve are converted to stress intensity curves, respectively KG(a) and KR(a).
As expected, a critical stress intensity Kc (unstable crack growth) higher than the initial-extension
stress intensity Ki (stable crack growth) is a trait of thin plates with some amount of plane stress
state – and the thinner the plate, the higher Kc would be.
The stress intensity approach to fracture is very powerful. It is applicable to stable crack extension
and does to some extent characterize processes of subcritical cracking like fatigue and stress
corrosion. The stress intensity factor is the fundamental parameter characterizing crack extension
in Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics (LEFM).
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 15
2. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics contents
2.3 Crack Tip Plasticity
There is a singularity in the elastic stress distribution at the crack tip: as r tends to zero the stress
becomes infinite. Since structural materials deform plastically above the yield stress sys, there will
be a plastic zone surrounding the crack tip. The elastic solution is not unconditionally applicable.
Irwin argued that the occurrence of plasticity makes the crack behave as if it were longer than its
physical size: i.e. larger displacements and lower stiffness than in the elastic case.
The crack may be viewed as having a notional tip at a distance ry ahead
sy elastic stress
of the real tip, in the center of a circular plastic zone. Beyond the plastic distribution
zone the elastic stress distribution is described by the K corresponding sys
to the notional crack size. This elastic stress distribution takes over from
the yield stress at a distance 2ry from the actual crack tip. Thus, the crack tip
crack tip
effect of crack tip plasticity corresponds to an apparent increase of the notional 2ry plastic zone
crack tip
elastic crack length a by an increment equal to ry.
Irwin considered a circular plastic zone of diameter 2ry ahead the crack tip under tensile loading,
with 2pry = (K/sys)2. Actually, this is valid for plane stress state only. In case of plane strain the
plastic zone size is considerably smaller: a value of 1/3 of radius ry is usually estimated. A plastic
zone at the tip of a through-thickness crack will inevitably tend to contract in the thickness
direction along the crack front. If the plate thickness is of the order of the plastic zone size or
smaller, this contraction can occur freely and a plane stress state will prevail. On the other hand,
if the plate thickness is much larger than the plastic zone size, contraction is constrained by the
elastic material surrounding the plastic zone and a plane strain state will prevail.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 16
2. Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics contents
2.4 Fracture modes
Stress systems in the vicinity of a crack tip may be divided into three basic types, each associated
with a local mode of crack surface
displacements. Modes I and II are
in-plane modes, Mode III produces
a scissoring out-of-plane motion.
Such classification may be rather
speculative, as actual cracks may be
very irregular in shape as compared
to the often highly idealized cracks MODE I FORWARD SHEAR ANTI PLANE SHEAR
considered in theoretical treatments. OPENING MODE (OR SLIDING) MODE (OR TEARING) MODE
The opening mode is by far the most important mechanism controlling failure of homogeneous
isotropic materials. For instance, it is well established that, unless constrained otherwise, a
growing crack will turn itself so as to minimize or totally eliminate the forward shear mode at the
crack tip in favor of the opening mode; when fracture occurs with an angle-crack, the crack tends
to propagate orthogonal to the applied normal stress, and the mixed mode becomes a Mode I.
Almost all the discussions in these lecture notes have been implicitly drawn for Mode I, however
they keep valid in principle for Mode II and Mode III as well. The stress intensity factor will be of
course different for each mode, and even the critical stress intensity factor (which is a material
constant for a given mode if crack tip plasticity is limited) varies in general with loading mode,
that is KIc  KIIc  KIIIc.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 17
3. Elastic-Plastic Fracture Mechanics contents
3.1 COD and J-integral
Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics can deal with only limited crack tip plasticity, i.e. the plastic
zone must remain small compared to the crack size and the cracked body as a whole must still
behave in an approximately elastic manner. If this is not the case then the problem has to be
treated elasto-plastically. Due to its complexity the concepts of Elastic-Plastic Fracture Mechanics
(EPFM) are not so well developed as LEFM theory.
Crack opening displacement (COD). This approach focuses on the strains in the crack tip region
instead of the stresses, unlike the stress intensity approach. In the presence of plasticity a crack
tip will blunt when it is loaded in tension. The crack flank displacement at the tip of a blunting
crack, the so-called crack tip opening displacement (CTOD), can be used as a fracture parameter.
Even for tougher materials exhibiting considerable plasticity, critical CTOD values could be defined
corresponding to the onset of fracture.
J-integral. This approach focuses on the potential energy changes involved in crack growth in non-
linear elastic material: this is a realistic approximation for plastic behavior provided no unloading
occurs in any part of the material. A fracture parameter called J was introduced. It is a contour
integral that can be evaluated along any arbitrary path enclosing the crack tip, and represents the
energy release rate for a crack in non-linear elastic material, analogous to G for linear elastic
material. For simple geometries and load cases the J integral can be evaluated analytically, but in
practice finite element calculations are often performed. In spite of this, J has found widespread
application as a parameter to predict the onset of crack growth in elastic-plastic problems. Later it
was found that J could also be used to describe a limited amount of stable crack growth.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 18
4. Subcritical Crack Growth contents
4.1 Fatigue crack growth (1/3)

The stress intensity factor can still be used when crack tip plasticity is limited. This latter condition
holds for some important kinds of subcritical crack growth, where most of the crack extension
usually takes place at stress intensities well below Kc. In particular the stress intensity approach
can provide correlations of data for fatigue crack growth and stress corrosion cracking.

Consider the simple case of a through-thickness crack in a wide Kc – Kmax
R = 0.9
plate subjected to a remote stressing that varies cyclically DK
between constant minimum and maximum values, i.e. a fatigue

applied K level
R = 0.85
loading consisting of constant amplitude stress cycles.
The stress range is Ds = smax – smin , and a stress intensity R = 0.7
range may be defined as DK = Kmax – Kmin = Ds(pa). The
stress intensity ratio is defined R = smin/smax = Kmin/Kmax. Kmin Kmax Kmean
The fatigue crack growth rate is defined as the crack extension during a small number of cycles
Da/Dn, which in the limit can be written as the derivative da/dn. Many variables influence fatigue
crack growth for a given material: primarily the cycle stress range DK and the stress ratio R, then
the mean stress Kmean (the effect of Kmax approaching Kc), the environment (temperature,
humidiy, salinity, …), the load history (e.g. frequency and shape of the load cycle), the material
processing variables (yield stress, ultimate strength, grain size, …).
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 19
4. Subcritical Crack Growth contents
4.1 Fatigue crack growth (2/3)

Fatigue crack growth rates da/dn are typically represented on a stage I stage II stage III

log da/dn
log-log plot versus DK. Data exhibit a characteristic sigmoidal
shape where three stages are observed. A lower threshold stress
intensity range DKth, below which there is no crack growth, is
typical of the initiation stage I. In the continuum growth stage II

Kmax = Kc
the crack growth rate is often some power function of DK, leading
to a linear relation between log(da/dn) and log(DK). In the final
stage III the crack length approaches the critical length for unstable
propagation and the crack grows rapidly as Kmax approaches Kc. DKth log DK
The interest in the initiation stage I is mainly for the knowledge of the threshold DKth , which
permits the calculation of permissible crack lengths and/or applied stresses in order to avoid
fatigue crack growth. The interest in the final stage III is relatively low as well, as relatively few
cycles are spent up to failure compared with the long interval in the linear portion of the log-log
curve da/dn – DK. The major interest is in stage II, for which a great effort has been made over
the years to formulate mathematical models for predicting crack growth rates on empirical bases.
The most widely known model is the simple empirical Paris law. For a given da
material the exponent n, generally in the range 2–4, controls the slope of  C (DK ) n
the straight line on the log-log plane, and coefficient C accounts for the
influence of the other variables and makes the straight line to shift parallel to itself.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 20
4. Subcritical Crack Growth contents
4.1 Fatigue crack growth (3/3)

However, Paris law is defective in accounting for the

dependence on another important variable, the

stress ratio value R. It has been found experimentally
that provided the stress ratio R is the same then DK

correlates fatigue crack growth rates in specimens

da/dn [m/cycle]
with different stress ranges and crack lengths and

also with different geometry. Instead, it is seen that
on a semi-log da/dn – DK plane the effect of rising R=0
R = 0.33
the values of R is to tilt the upper portion of the

R = 0.5
curve to the left. R = 0.7

Since it is impractical to build a separate calibration

curve with its own C and n coefficients for each 0 10 20 30 40
DK [MPa m1/2]
stress ratio R, several and often complicate variations
of the Paris law have been proposed. They are mostly trying to incorporate the effect of R by
achieving a good empirical fitting of the experimental data.
A significant contribution to a satisfactory crack growth model came from the investigation of
the crack closure effect and the introduction of the concept of the effective stress intensity
range DKeff , see § 4.3.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 21
4. Subcritical Crack Growth contents
4.2 Overload retardation effect
Residual stresses. During crack extension, the crack advances inside a plastic zone where the
ligaments of material are permanently elongated. When the applied loads are reversed, the
elastic stress field surrounding the plastic zone attempts to return to the sy
natural state but is prohibited from doing so by the stretched ligaments. tensile
So, the elastic field compresses these ligaments and sets up an elastic 
compressive residual stress state ahead of the crack tip, that is actually compressive  x

created by prior plastic deformation. This compressive stress field is

balanced by a region of tensile stress further away from the crack tip.
Isolated overloads have a temporary retardation effect on the growth of fatigue cracks. After
application of a sufficiently large overload the crack growth rate becomes significantly lower, then
the rate gradually increases until becomes the same as the periodic overload

crack length a
unretarded growth rate. The explanation is a much larger retardation
compressive residual stress at the crack tip after the overload. constant-amplitude
Since the crack will not start to grow until the net stress at the
crack tip is tensile, the effective DK is much smaller immediately
after the overload. As the crack advances through the overload
plastic zone, the residual self-balanced stress field (so the
compressive stress at the tip) decreases and the net DK slowly
rises. If the process is repeated at just the correct intervals,
there is a significant increase in the fatigue life. number of cycles n
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 22
4. Subcritical Crack Growth contents
4.3 Crack closure effect (1/2)
Plasticity-induced crack closure. During crack extension, the material that will stretched
become exposed at the crack flanks near the tip undergoes a plastic stretch
normal to the crack surfaces. After breaking, the residual plastic deformation
leaves some elongated material out the expected crack flanks. When the crack faces
applied load decreases the crack will tend to close and the stretched materials touch
along the flanks come in contact and cause closure before zero load is reached.
After full relaxation of the applied load the flanks exert reaction forces onto
each other and induce crack-line loading. An induced stress intensity factor will loading
develop which increases as the applied stress decreases. In practice, this
induced stress intensity factor rises Kmin in the fatigue cycle and provides the
definition of an effective stress intensity range DKeff . K = s(pa)
The value of Kmin-eff can be obtained from the knowledge of the
crack opening stress sop . The latter has been defined as the stress DKeff
for which the crack is just fully open in a tension test of a cracked
specimen. This stress can be determined experimentally: in fact at Kmin-eff
the crack opening stress the load-displacement curve manifests a Kmin
change in slope, which corresponds to a decrease of stiffness from
the not-fully-open crack status to the fully-open crack status. s
smin sop smax
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 23
4. Subcritical Crack Growth contents
4.3 Crack closure effect (2/2)
The crack closure effect and the related concept of effective stress intensity range DKeff are of
great importance in formulating models for predicting fatigue crack growth rates. In fact, using
DKeff instead of DK should incorporate the effect of the stress ratio R.
As a matter of fact, excellent results are obtained
with the closure-corrected Paris law …  C (DK eff ) n  C (U DK ) n
where U = ( smax – sop ) / Ds = Dseff / Ds dn

For a 2024-T3 aluminum alloy, a fair estimate of

DKeff = UDK is obtained with a linear relation

between U and R in the form
U = 0.5 + 0.4 R (for – 0.1 < R < 0.7 )

da/dn [m/cycle]
The closure-corrected Paris law is plotted aside

for a 2024-T3 aluminum alloy, and compared
with the experimental data for R = 0, 0.33, 0.5,
0.7 as reported at § 4.1.

0 4 8 12 16
DKeff [MPa m1/2]
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 24
4. Subcritical Crack Growth contents
4.4 Stress corrosion

It has been found that stress corrosion cracking data may be log da/dt
correlated by the stress intensity approach. A generalized II
representation of the stress corrosion crack growth rate is
the plot of da/dt as a function of K, where t is time.
The crack growth curve consists of three regions: in regions I and
III the crack velocity depends strongly on K, but in region II the K
velocity is virtually independent of K (plateau velocity). Kth Kmax

Regions I and II are most characteristic: region III is often not observed owing to a fairly abrupt
transition from region II to unstable fast fracture.
In region I there is a so-called threshold stress intensity, designated Kth, below which cracks do
not propagate under sustained load for a given combination of material, temperature and
environment. This threshold stress intensity is an important parameter that can be determined
by time-to-failure tests, in which pre-cracked specimens are loaded at various (constant) stress
intensity levels, thereby failing at different times.
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 25
4. Subcritical Crack Growth contents
4.5 Computer programs

Two life-prediction computer programs that implement the features of fatigue crack growth
analysis are quoted

 NASGRO – Fracture Mechanics and Fatigue Crack Growth Analysis Software

NASGRO is a suite of computer programs linked together by a graphical user interface:
• NASFLA, the central life assessment code, contains libraries of stress intensity factor
solutions and material properties and performs the crack growth analyses.
• NASBEM is a two-dimensional boundary element (BEM) code used to calculate stress
intensity factors or stress fields in 2-D geometries.
• NASMAT is an extensive database of material data for fatigue crack growth and fracture
• NASFORM is a fatigue crack formation (initiation) analysis module containing a stress-life
model and four different strain-life models.
 AFGROW – Fracture Mechanics and Fatigue Crack Growth Analysis Software (US Air Force
Basic elements for Fracture Mechanics 26

Anderson, T.L. (1995) Fracture Mechanics, Fundamentals and Applications. (2nd ed.)
CRC Press.
Sanford, R.J. (2003) Principles of Fracture Mechanics. Pearson Education.
Janssen, M., Zuidema, J., Wanhill, R. (2004) Fracture Mechanics. (2nd ed.) Spon Press.