Probability distribution of energetic-statistical size effect in quasibrittle fracture

Zdeněk P. Bažant*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


The physical sources of randomness in quasibrittle fracture described by the cohesive crack model are discussed and theoretical arguments for the basic form of the probability distribution are presented. The probability distribution of the size effect on the nominal strength of structures made of heterogeneous quasibrittle materials is derived, under certain simplifying assumptions, from the nonlocal generalization of Weibull theory. Attention is limited to structures of positive geometry failing at the initiation of macroscopic crack growth from a zone of distributed cracking. It is shown that, for small structures, which do not dwarf the fracture process zone (FPZ), the mean size effect is deterministic, agreeing with the energetic size effect theory, which describes the size effect due to stress redistribution and the associated energy release caused by finite size of the FPZ formed before failure. Material randomness governs the statistical distribution of the nominal strength of structure and, for very large structure sizes, also the mean. The large-size and small-size asymptotic properties of size effect are determined, and the reasons for the existence of intermediate asymptotics are pointed out. Asymptotic matching is then used to obtain an approximate closed-form analytical expression for the probability distribution of failure load for any structure size. For large sizes, the probability distribution converges to the Weibull distribution for the weakest link model, and for small sizes, it converges to the Gaussian distribution justified by Daniels' fiber bundle model. Comparisons with experimental data on the size-dependence of the modulus of rupture of concrete and laminates are shown. Monte Carlo simulations with finite elements are the subject of ongoing studies by Pang at Northwestern University to be reported later.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-319
Number of pages13
JournalProbabilistic Engineering Mechanics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • Asymptotic analysis
  • Extreme value statistics
  • Failure
  • Fracture mechanics
  • Nonlocal continuum
  • Probability distribution
  • Quasibrittle materials
  • Size effect
  • Weakest link model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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