Grain level analysis of crack initiation and propagation in brittle materials

P. D. Zavattieri, H. D. Espinosa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations


A study on the accuracy of cohesive models for capturing dynamic fragmentation of ceramic microstructures is presented. The investigation consists of a combined experimental/numerical approach in which microcracking and damage kinetics are examined by means of plate impact recovery experiments. The numerical analysis is based on a 2-D micromechanical stochastic finite element analysis. The model incorporates a cohesive law to capture microcrack initiation, propagation and coalescence, as well as crack interaction and branching, as a natural outcome of the calculated material response. The stochasticity of the microfracture process is modeled by introducing a Weibull distribution of interfacial strength at grain boundaries. This model accounts for randomness in grain orientation, and the existence of chemical impurities and glassy phase at grain boundaries. Representative volume elements (RVE) of ceramic microstructure with different grain size and shape distributions are considered to account for features observed in real microstructures. Normal plate impact velocity histories are used not only to identify model parameters, but also to determine under what conditions the model captures failure mechanisms experimentally observed. The analyses show that in order to capture damage kinetics a particular distribution of grain boundary strength and detailed modeling of grain morphology are required. Simulated microcrack patterns and velocity histories have been found to be in a good agreement with the experimental observations only when the right grain morphology and model parameters are chosen. It has been found that the addition of rate effects to the cohesive model results in microcrack diffusion not observed experimentally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4291-4311
Number of pages21
JournalActa Materialia
Issue number20
StatePublished - Dec 3 2001


  • Ceramics
  • Damage kinetics
  • Fracture & fracture toughness
  • Grain boundaries
  • Microstructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Metals and Alloys


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