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245

International Journal of Fracture, Vol, 11, No. 2, April 1975


Noordhoff International Publishing - Leyden
Printed in The Netherlands

An energy rdease rate criterion for mixed mode fracture


R. J. N U I S M E R *
Research Associate, Nonmetallic Materials Division, Air Force Materials Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,
Dayton, Ohio 45433, U.S.A.
(Received September 30, 1973)

ABSTRACT
The initial energy release rate for a branch crack propagating at an arbitrary angle from an existing crack tip is obtained
in a simple fashion and in closed form by using a continuity assumption. It is then postulated that the branch crack
propagates in the direction which causes the energy release rate to be a maximum and that initiation occurs when the
value of this release rate reaches a critical value. It is shown that these postulates yield results identical to the maximum
stress theory, since the direction in which the maximum circumferential stress occurs is also the direction causing the
maximum energy release rate.

1. Introduction

Although in practice the fracture of materials under mixed mode loading is not uncommon,
until recently the approach of fracture mechanics to this problem has been largely to ignore it.
Thus it is of no small interest that two new approaches to this problem, both based on energy
concepts, have recently evolved. The first approach is that of Sih [1 ], [2], in which he formulates
a strain energy density function, S, which is a measure of the strength of the elastic energy field
in the vicinity of a crack tip. This function, S, is a quadratic form of the Mode I and Mode II
stress intensity factors, and varies with the angle, 0, measured from the plane of the crack.
It is then postulated that: 1) crack initiation will occur at the crack tip in a radial direction
along which the strain energy density, S, is a minimum ; and 2) the crack will begin to propagate when the density, S, reaches some critical value, Scr, which is considered to be a material
constant determined from experiment. Although for rather limited data, initial comparisons of
these hypotheses to experimental data seem to warrant further investigation of the theory.
The second approach to the problem of mixed mode fracture is the energy release rate
method recently demonstrated by Palaniswamy [3]. In this approach, Kolosov-Muskhelishvili
stress functions were used to obtain an approximate numerical solution to the difficult problem
of a branched crack. These results were then used to calculate energy release rates for the branch
propagating at various angles to the original crack. It was then hypothesized that: 1) crack
propagation will occur at the crack tip in a radial direction along which the energy release is a
maximum ; and 2) the crack will begin to propagate when the energy release rate reaches some
critical level.
Although both of these theories for mixed mode fracture seem plausible, the criterion gaining
the most acceptance will undoubtedly be that which is able to make the better predictions.
However, sufficient data for this comparison is, at present, lacking. The one factor which, for
the moment, would seem to favor the energy release rate theory is simply the fact that for purely
Mode I fracture this theory has developed a considerable acceptance among people working
in the field of fracture. Thus, the emphasis of the present paper is on the energy release theory.
The application of the energy release rate theory in Ref. [-3], although ponderous, has led to
some interesting results. For the single problem considered, that of a crack inclined at an angle fl
to a uniform uniaxial tension field at infinity, it was found that the predicted direction of crack
propagation was nearly identical to that predicted using the maximum stress theory [4].
* Currently on leave from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Int. Journ. of Fracture, 11 (1975) 245-250

246

R . J. N u i s m e r

Likewise, the k l - k 2 fracture envelope predicted by the energy release rate theory agreed within
a few percent of that obtained by the maximum stress theory. The question then arises as to
whether there is some relation between the two theories or if some unusual coincidence has
occurred for this particular problem. Unfortunately, because the results of Ref. [-3] are presented
numerically, such a comparison is impossible. It will be shown in the present paper that, for
the problem of the initial propagation of a branch crack from an existing crack, the energy
release rate can be obtained in closed form in a very simple fashion by means of a continuity
assumption. The relation between the energy release rate theory and the maximum stress theory
is then examined.
2. Calculation of the energy release rate

For plane problems, the stresses at the tip of a line crack have the form [5]
ao -

cos (8/2)
2(2r)~ [kl(1 +cos 0 ) - 3 k 2 sin 8]

(1)

cos (0/2)
at0 - 2(2r)~---T- [kl sin 0+k2(3 cos 8 - 1)]

(2)

where kl and k2 are the Mode I and Mode II stress intensity factors, respectively, and r and 0
constitute the usual polar coordinate system with origin attached to the crack tip. As the load
on an existing crack increases to an appropriate level, the crack will begin to propagate,
although not necessarily in its own plane. Consider, then, a branch crack to propagate from
the existing crack tip in an arbitrary radial direction, 0 = 00, as shown in Fig. 1. Denoting all
quantities associated with the branch crack by placing a bar over those quantities, it is clear that
at the tip of the br___anchcr__ackthe stresses are of the form of Eqns. (1) and (2) with r, 8, kl and k 2
replaced by ~, 0, kl and k2, repectively. Here, it should be noted that the stress intensity factors
associated with the original crack, ka and k2, are, in general, different from those of the branch
crack, ka and k2, with the latter being dependent on the branched geometry.
Y

.~

~x
Fig. 1. Geometryand coordinatesystemsfor the branched crack.
Considering the energy release rate, it has been shown that for a crack propagating in its
the energy release rate, Go, is given by [-6]

o w n plane,

Go - rc(~+ 1) (k 2 +k2)

(3)

8~

where kl and k 2 are the stress intensity factors for the crack in question and ~ = 3 - 4 v for
plane strain and K= (3 - v)/(1 + v) for generalized plane stress. The energy release rate for the
branch crack we are considering must then be given by
Go

n(~c+ 1) ( ~ + k 2)
8#

(4)

since, after initiation, propagation takes place in the plane of the branch crack. To obtain values
for this release rate, however, one needs to know the stress intensity factors for the branched
Int. Journ. of Fracture,

11 (1975) 245-250

247

An energy release rate criterion for mixed mode fracture

crack and this, in general, involves the solution of a complicated boundary value problem [3].
Fortunately, however, if we are concerned only with the initiation of fracture, an easier method
of obtaining these stress intensity factors is available by making a continuity assumption.
Consider the length of the branch crack, fi, to approach zero. It is assumed that in the limit as
shrinks to zero, the stress field at the tip of the branch crack must approach the stress field at the
tip of the original crack before propagation began.* Thus, in the limit as ~ shrinks to zero, we
equate the normal and shear stresses, fly and 5~, at the tip of the branch crack to those at the tip
of the original crack, a o and at0, along the ray, 0 = 00. In equation form, this can be written as
lim 5 y = a o

O=Oo

.~o~

(5)

lim 5~; = a,o [ o= Oo.


~-o+

(6)

Substituting the appropriate expressions into Eqns. (5) and (6) results in the stress intensity
factors for the branch crack at its initiation. These are
]~1o =

lim ~1 = cos(Oo/Z)[kl (1 + c o s 0 0 ) - 3 k z sin 00]


~ 0

k2o = lim k2 = cos (00/2) [kt sin 00 + k2 (3 cos 0 o - 1)].


~ 0

(7)

(8)

Having the stress intensity factors, the energy release rate, Go~ due to the branch crack at
the instant that that crack begins to propagate from the original crack in the direction 0 = 00
is given from Eqn. (4) as
Goo-

7r(x+ 1)
8p (~z+ ~)

(9)

where J~to and J~2oare given by Eqns. (7) and (8). A quick perusal of Eqn. (9) reveals that, for a
particular material, the energy release rate due to the initiation of a branch crack is solely a
function of the stress state before fracture begins and the path the branch crack chooses to
follow.
3. Fracture criteria

Since for Mode I fracture the energy release rate has been considered to be a "driving force"
for crack propagation it is only natural to postulate the fracture criteria as follows : 1) the crack
will propagate in the direction which causes the maximum energy release rate to occur; and
2) the fracture will initiate when the release rate in that direction reaches a certain specified
level. These are the same hypotheses used in Ref. [3]. Combined with the energy release rate as
given in Eqn. (9), these criteria imply that, for a particular material, the initiation of fracture
and the direction it takes are dependent only on the state of stress at the existing crack tip.
Considering the initial direction of propagation, the first fracture hypothesis of the preceding
paragraph makes it clear that this direction is predicted to be the solution of the equation
~(K+ 1)( k O~,o
Ok2,,)
O0o = " ~
\ lo~
+ keg ( 3 0 o / = 0

dGoo

(10)

that causes Goo to attain a maximum value. Eqn. (10) can be rewritten in a form more conducive
to its interpretation by comparing the crack tip stresses, ao and a,o of Eqns. (1) and (2), with the
stress intensity factors, i~1o and/~2o of Eqns. (7) and (8). Thus we see that Eqn. (10) can be rewritten equivalently as
* The stress singularity at point 0 due to the sharp corner will be of a smaller order t h a n the square root singularity
associated with a sharp crack tip since the included wedge angle of the bend is always greater than zero [7]. Thus, it
is a s s u m e d to have no contribution to either the stress intensity factors or the energy release rate at the tip of the
branch crack, 0. This is further substantiated by a comparison of the results of the present paper with those of Ref. [3].

Int. Journ. of Fracture, 11 (1975) 245-250

R. J. Nuismer

248

Oao
~3ar0] I
= 0
0-o 00- + aro 80 / O=Oo

(11)

or, upon recognizing that 00-o/00= -(3/2)a,0, as

An examination of Eqn. (12) reveals that it has three roots, two resulting from causing a~0
to vanish and one from letting the term in parentheses vanish. Considering first the latter root,
writing the term in parentheses out explicitly shows this root to be a solution of
0o
0o
kl cos -~- - k2 sin -~- = 0.

(13)

Solving Eqn. (13) for 0o leads to


0o
~- = arc tan(kl/k2).

(14)

The energy release rate corresponding to this direction can then be obtained by substituting
Eqn. (14) into Eqns. (7) and (8), and those in turn into Eqn. (9), to arrive at
n(x+l)(
k~ "~
G 8 ~ \k~ + k~/ "
(15)
If the crack were simply to propagate in its own plane, however, rather than the direction given
by Eqn. (14), the initial energy release r a t e w o u l d be
Go -

~ ( x + 1) (k 2 +k2)"
8--7

(16)

Since it is easily verified that Go of Eqn. (16) is greater than Goo of Eqn. (15), it is clear that
the root given by Eqn. (14) cannot possibly cause Goo to achieve a maximum value. Thus, we
discard this root from consideration as a direction of propagation.
The predicted initial direction of crack growth has now been narrowed down to the solution
of the equation

z dao

-- 3 - ' ~

0=0o

= arolO=Oo= 0

(17)

that makes G0o a maximum. Thus, we see that the directions, 0 o = Oo, which yield stationary
values of the circumferential stress, ao, also result in stationary values of the energy release
rate. Since Eqn. (17) implies that along these directions ~2o = 0, the energy release rate in these
directions is given from Eqn. (9) as

G,,o-

re(x+ 1)
0o=0o

rc(~c+ 1)

0"0] 2

(18)
I
10= o.

Because the energy release rate (18) involves only the square of the circumferential stress, a0,
we see that the predicted direction of crack propagation takes place in the direction of the circumferential stress of maximum absolute value, since this is the direction of the maximum
energy release rate. In the event that the maximum absolute value of a0 occurs for a0 > 0,
the predicted direction of crack growth is precisely the same as that predicted by the maximum
stress theory first postulated by Griffith [8] and later re-examined by Erdogan and Sih [4].
If, however, the maximum absolute value of a o occurs for a0 < 0, the energy release rate theory
Int. Journ. of Fracture, 11 (1975)245-250

An energy release rate criterion for mixed modefracture

249

appears to predict propagation in the direction of the largest compressive circumferential stress:
This prediction, which conflicts with reality, can easily be explained by observing that the maximum absolute value of go is always greater than zero for problems in which kl >0, i.e., for
problems in which no interpenetration of opposing crack faces occurs.
We summarize as follows: for problems in which kl >i0, the energy release rate theory
predicts the initial direction of crack propagatiot~ to be in the direction of the maximum positive
value of the circumferential stress, tre,since it is this direction which results in the greatest energy
release rate. For problems in which kl < 0, a new boundary value problem must be solved
which takes into account the contact of opposing crack faces. However, once the stress distribution at the tip of such a crack is found, the method applied here to obtain the energy release
rate is again applicable. It should be noted here that the restriction on kl applies as well to the
strain energy density theory of Refs. [-1] and [-2].
Turning now to the conditions necessary to initiate crack propagation, the second hypothesis implies that fracture will progress when
Goo = Gcr

(19)

where t9 o is now taken to be the direction of the maximum tensile circumferential stress near
the crack tip, and Get is assumed to be a material constant. Noting the relation between the
critical energy release rate, G~, and the critical Mode I stress intensity factor, klor,
Get

rt(x+ 1) k2
8-----~

(20)

1 ~r

the initiation criterion (19) can be recast in the form


klol0o=O o = k l

(21)

Finally, in terms of the original stress intensity factors, this can be written as
cos (Oo/2)[,k~ (1 + cos 6}0)- 3k2 sin 6}0] = k~or.

(22)

Eqn. (22) is a particularly attractive form of the initiation criterion in view of the vast amount
of experimentally obtained values of k ~or available.
4. Discussion and conclusions
The initial energy relea e rate for a branch crack propagating at.an arbitrary angle from an
existing crack tip has been obtained in a simple fashion and in closed form by using a continuity
assumption. It was then postulated that the branch crack propagates in the direction causing
the maximum energy release rate and is initated when the value of this release rate reaches a
critical value, Gcr. For problems in which the opposing faces of the existing crack are not in
contact before the branch propagates, it has been shown that this energy release rate criterion
for mixed mode fracture yields exactly the same results as the maximum stress theory [-4].
This was found to occur because the direction in which the circumferential stress at the crack
tip, ae, attains a maximum value is also the direction of propagation causing the maximum
energy release rate. Since the direction is also the direction in which the shear stress, a~0,
vanishes, it is clear that the branch crack is predicted to propagate in a Mode I manner. These
results then imply that fracture will be initiated when the maximum ao reaches a critical value.
This, of course, was also assumed to be the initiation criterion in the maximum stress theory.
The results obtained agree within a few per cent with the numerical results obtained in [-3].
Acknowledgements
The author gratefully wishes to acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation,
Research Initiation Grant GK-27783, and of the National Research Council through a Resident
Research Associateship.
Int. Journ. of Fracture, 11 (1975)245-250

250

R. J. Nuismer

REFERENCES
[-1] G.C. Sih, A special theory of crack propagation, Methods of Analysis and Solutions of Crack Problems, Noordhoff
International Publishing (1973).
I2] G. C. Sih, Some basic problems in fracture mechanics and new concepts, Engng. Fracture Mech., 5 (1973) 365.
1'3] K. Palaniswamy, Crack propagation under general in-plane loading, Ph.D. Thesis, California Institute of Technology (1972).
[4] F. Erdogan and G. C. Sih, On the crack extension in plates under plane loading and transverse shear, Trans.
ASME, J. Basic Engng., 85 (1963) 519.
[5] M. L. Williams, On the stress distribution at the base of a stationary crack, Trans. ASME, J. Appl. Mech., 24 (1957)
109.
1'6] G. C. Sih and H. Liebowitz, Mathematical theories of brittle fracture, Fracture, An Advanced Treatise, Vol. 2,
Academic Press (1968).
1'7] M. L. Williams, Stress singularities resulting from various boundary conditions in angular corners of plates in
extension, Trans. ASME, J. Appl. Mech., 74 (1952) 526.
1'8] A. A. Griffith, The phenomena of rupture and flow in solids, Phil. Trans. R. Soc., A221 (1921) 163.
RI~SUMI~
La vitesse de relaxation de r6nergie initiale d'une fissure arborescente qui se d6veloppe suivant un angle arbitraire
au d6part de l'extr6mit6 d'une fissure prOexistante est obtenue sous une presentation simple et une forme ferrule en
utilisant une hypoth~se de continuit6. On postule doric que la fissure lat6rale se propage dans la direction correspondant
/l un maximum de relaxation de l'6nergie, et que l'amorqage se produit lorsque la vitesse de relaxation atteint une valeur
critique. On montre que ces postulats conduisent/l des r~sultats identiques/~ ceux de la th6orie de la contrainte maximale, puisque la direction suivant laquelle se prOsente la contrainte circonf~rentielle maximum est 6galement celle
suivant laquelle la vitesse de relaxation de l'6nergie est maximale.
ZUSAMMENFASSUNG
Die Anfangsgeschwindigkeit der Energiefreilassung fiir einen ZweigriB, der sich unter einem willkiirlichen Winkel von
einer bestehenden RiBspitze ausbreitet, wird unter einer einfachen DarsteUung und in einer geschlossenen Form
durch Gebrauch einer KontinuiRitsannahme aufgestellt. Es wird dann vorausgesetzt dass der ZweigriB sich in der Richtung ausbreitet welche ein Maximum der Energiefreilassungsgeschwindigkeit bewirkt und dass die RiBausl6sung
eintritt wenn der maximum Wert dieser Energiefreilassungsgeschwindigkeit einen kritischen Wert erreicht. Es wird
gezeigt dass diese Annahmen zu den selben Ergebnissen wie die der maximalen Spannungstheorie fiihren, da die Richtung der maximalen Kreisspannung dieselbe ist als die der maximalen Energiefreilassungsgeschwindigkeit.

Int. Journ. of Fracture, 11 (1975)245-250