Cohesive crack with rate-dependent opening and viscoelasticity: I. Mathematical model and scaling

Zdeněk P. Bažant*, Yuan Neng Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


The time dependence of fracture has two sources: (1) the viscoelasticity of material behavior in the bulk of the structure, and (2) the rate process of the breakage of bonds in the fracture process zone which causes the softening law for the crack opening to be rate-dependent. The objective of this study is to clarify the differences between these two influences and their role in the size effect on the nominal strength of stucture. Previously developed theories of time-dependent cohesive crack growth in a viscoelastic material with or without aging are extended to a general compliance formulation of the cohesive crack model applicable to structures such as concrete structures, in which the fracture process zone (cohesive zone) is large, i.e., cannot be neglected in comparison to the structure dimensions. To deal with a large process zone interacting with the structure boundaries, a boundary integral formulation of the cohesive crack model in terms of the compliance functions for loads applied anywhere on the crack surfaces is introduced. Since an unopened cohesive crack (crack of zero width) transmits stresses and is equivalent to no crack at all, it is assumed that at the outset there exists such a crack, extending along the entire future crack path (which must be known). Thus it is unnecessary to deal mathematically with a moving crack tip, which keeps the formulation simple because the compliance functions for the surface points of such an imagined preexisting unopened crack do not change as the actual front of the opened part of the cohesive crack advances. First the compliance formulation of the cohesive crack model is generalized for aging viscoelastic material behavior, using the elastic-viscoelastic analogy (correspondence principle). The formulation is then enriched by a rate-dependent softening law based on the activation energy theory for the rate process of bond ruptures on the atomic level, which was recently proposed and validated for concrete but is also applicable to polymers, rocks and ceramics, and can be applied to ice if the nonlinear creep of ice is approximated by linear viscoelasticity. Some implications for the characteristic length, scaling and size effect are also discussed. The problems of numerical algorithm, size effect, roles of the different sources of time dependence and rate effect, and experimental verification are left for a subsequent companion paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-265
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Fracture
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997


  • Characteristic length
  • Cohesive crack
  • Concrete
  • Crack bridging
  • Creep
  • Fracture mechanics
  • Nonlinear fracture
  • Quasibrittle fracture
  • Rate effect
  • Scaling
  • Time effect
  • Viscoelasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Mechanics of Materials


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