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Int J Fract (2015) 196:99–146

DOI 10.1007/s10704-015-0058-6


A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials

Wolfgang G. Knauss

Received: 30 July 2015 / Accepted: 20 November 2015 / Published online: 28 December 2015
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Abstract This review is written in honor of Max L. polymers has often, if not usually, minimized the time
Williams who not only started this International Jour- dependence, only cursory attention is paid to these, in
nal of Fracture (the author’s Ph.D. advisor. Originally spite of the fact that they constitute a very important
the Journal was called International Journal of Fracture class of materials in the modern engineering commu-
Mechanics) but who had a seminally fundamental influ- nity. From an engineering perspective this review is
ence on the course of fracture mechanics in general, and motivated also by an exposition of a persistent lack of
specifically as applied to the time dependent failure of knowledge concerning time dependent fracture issues.
elastomers/polymers. In view of that background this Most of the work attached to the notion of viscoelastic
article reviews developments over more than 50 years, fracture is—intentionally or by omission—associated
as colored by my own experiences in regard to this with the phenomenon of crack growth under steady
topic. It seems appropriate to include a historical state conditions with the expectation that this under-
perspective that starts during pre-journal times and standing leads implicitly to resolution of problems gov-
addresses the need for understanding time dependent erned by transient loadings. Besides reviewing the his-
processes governing fracture in rate sensitive materials. torical evolution of the knowledge in this field over the
To the largest extent, the rate dependence is important past half century, it is a main purpose of this paper to
where polymers are involved, though under more lim- offer information that has either been ignored or has not
ited conditions metals and igneous solids as well as lig- been explored (this includes the work of the author), but
neous ones exhibit time dependent fracture characteris- which contradicts this “popular” perception. It is thus
tics. Such facts notwithstanding, the major discussion an intentionally large part of this presentation which
in this contribution is devoted here to the time depen- documents compelling motivation for addressing frac-
dent fracture of polymeric materials, and elastomeric ture aspects, that are generally important from an engi-
ones in particular. The emphasis will be thus on time neering design and analysis point-of-view: specifically,
dependent issues governed primarily by the fracture it is intended to illustrate the remarkable degree by
processes in elastomeric solids, which have evolved which the steady state solution to crack propagation
largely in parallel to problems devoted to the more rigid deviates from experimental information when transient
polymers. Because consideration of fracture of the rigid conditions prevail, and the large range of time scales
over which this failure behavior is observed.
W. G. Knauss (B)
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena,
Keywords Viscoelasticity · Fracture ·
CA 91125, USA Time-dependent fracture · Polymer fracture ·
e-mail: Elastomer fracture

100 W. G. Knauss

1 Perspective

The earliest contributor and the initial driver behind

studying fracture of viscoelastic materials was the
founder of this Journal, Max L. Williams, whose 1957
demonstration of the universality of the square-root sin-
gularity in linearized fracture mechanics contributed a
major building block to the development and practical
implementation of fracture mechanics in engineering
designs. Moreover, his demonstration of the more com-
plicated singularity at the front of a disbond between
dissimilar materials (Williams 1959), followed by the
contribution of England (1965), has played a seminal
role in the study of adhesion mechanics during the
1980’s and 90’s, Fracture mechanics in the 1950’s was
in its late infancy, if measured by, say, the early contri-
bution of Irwin (1957, 1958), and his summary in the
Handbuch der Physik (1958), though conference dis-
cussions were provided through various professional Fig. 1 Cross sectional view of photoelastically identified
societies, notably the ASME. The earliest conferences stresses in a “star-configured solid rocket motor grain
devoted specifically to fracture topics were, (a) the
first international conference—that I am aware of- was ation the burning surface remains nearly constant so as
held “ …on the atomic mechanisms of fracture”, in to provide a similarly constant pressure for propulsion.
Swampscott, Massachusetts, 1959 (April 12–16), and The body of the motor charge is typically a cylindri-
(b) followed in 1962 by the conference in Maple Valley, cal configuration, called the grain, encased in a stiff
Washington, at which conference M.L.Williams (1963) case, usually fabricated of marageing steel, but later
presented the first model for time dependent fracture of also of fiber-composite materials. The propellant is a
a viscoelastic solid, expanded in an inaugural paper in mixture of granular oxidizer, bonded together by a car-
the first volume of this Journal in 1965. bon rich rubber in a 70–85 wt% of solids, mostly gran-
The motivation for the current presentation, as well ular ammonium perchlorate and additives for burning
as, on a larger scale, a recount of the earliest driver rate control. Because the grain is cast before the rubber
in the US for understanding time dependent fracture, is cross linked and cures subsequently in the stiff case,
emanated from the solid rocket fuel industry—funded the associated shrinkage of the material causes stresses,
by the US government—to develop the capability to which are augmented by the thermal cool-down during
design reliable tactical (land based and aircraft deliv- and after cure. These stresses are typically highest at
ered) and strategic weapons (long-range intercontinen- the valleys of the star shaped cross section and at the
tal missiles) for (cold-war) defense purposes. The pri- ends of the grain (in the axial direction) which is nor-
mary issue for the safe and reliable designs of solid mally bonded to the much stiffer case along all of its
rocket motors was the prevention of crack develop- length. At issue were then the estimation of the time
ment and propagation in the propellant charge, because when a crack was likely to start (crack initiation) and
the generation of unintended burning area would result of the probable speed with which the crack would/could
in a disastrous increase in pressure that provides the grow during the pre-firing storage as well as during the
propulsive force. The appearance of one or more cracks pressurization associated with launch and operation.
typically led to a pressure instability resulting in “mal- The crack initiation was typically addressed through
functioning”. the prescription of a critical strain (sometimes a criti-
For reference or historical purposes the critical areas cal stress) established empirically, rather than in terms
in a solid propellant rocket motor are illustrated in of a crack based fracture criterion, though “Ansätze”
Fig. 1. The star shaped cross-section is designed such for this purpose have been proposed (Knauss 1963,
that as the propellant surface burns away during oper- 1965, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1973a, b, c; Mueller 1968;

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 101

Mueller and Knauss 1971a, b; Schapery 1975a, b, c), hardly provide viscoelastic properties. Independent of
as discussed in detail below, but strain-based crite- this work in the US, a long lasting effort under the guid-
ria have been maintained essentially to today. On the ance of Zhurkov (1960, 1972), Zhurkov et al. (1969) in
other hand, the propagation behavior of existing cracks the (then) Soviet Union studied the failure processes at
has been developed more extensively, though, strictly the molecular level through examination of the genera-
speaking, primarily for linearly viscoelastic materi- tion of chemical bond ruptures as traced by the spin res-
als as also delineated below. Because solid propellant onance method, and failure was typically assumed to be
fuels are typically highly nonlinear when large strains characterizable via uniaxial tensile data. This method
are involved, mostly ad hoc modifications were intro- of study did not follow the classical methods of frac-
duced, but the fact remains that the linearly viscoelastic ture mechanics, but was more typical of the attempts
model(s) were and continue to serve at this time as the to characterize strength as practiced in the physics and
basis for efforts in this direction. chemistry environment. While this type of study does
One might wish to make the point that in cases not address the more macroscopic aspects of the crack
involving highly nonlinear metal behavior in the form propagation phenomenon, it is of interest in establish-
of plasticity one has also drawn heavily on the results of ing the molecular basis for the failing material at the
linear fracture mechanics and that a similar path might front of the crack, which motivated the group around
have been followed for nonlinearly viscoelastic behav- M.L. Williams (Williams and DeVries 1969) at the Uni-
ior. The major difference was/is that plasticity had been versity of Utah, as well as coworkers (DeVries et al.
investigated for decades and was, relatively speaking, 1971a, b, c) in that direction. Much of this work was
well understood. The same was/is not true for non- motivated by the desire to better understand the failure
linear behavior of viscoelastic materials such as solid of rigid polymers, though investigation by this group
propellant rocket fuels—as well as rigid and rubbery included studies on elastomer failure, also.
polymers—, and the status of describing nonlinearly Although the sequel will not address in detail the
viscoelastic behavior is not even today nearly compa- fracture of polymers in their glassy state it should be
rable to that where plasticity is concerned.1 mentioned in this brief review that considerable effort
While a major driver for exploring the fracture has been expended on the fracture controlling process
behavior for viscoelastic materials in the US was the of “crazing” in uncrosslinked polymers. Crazes form a
defense and space programs of the 1950s, 60’s and 70’s, critical component in the fracture process. Dominant
though not exclusively so,2 the main motivation for among these investigations were those by Kambour
polymer fracture in, e.g., Europe derived from the ever (1970) and Kambour and Robertson (1972), Cessna
increasing industrial use of high polymers in engineer- and Sternstein (1965, 1967), Sternstein et al. (1968)
ing designs. The author’s early developments under and Kramer (e.g., see Kramer and Hart 1984), who
NASA sponsorship as instigated by M.L. Williams performed significant studies that should form the basis
addressed a reaction rate model to crack propagation of a well formulated fracture criterion for these types
which was driven by the elastically stored energy in the of materials, though at the present time, efforts in
global sample which remained after the dissipation had that direction seem to have stalled. Moreover, exten-
been converted into (low-temperature) heat during the sive studies of crack initiation and propagation behav-
deformation (Knauss 1963). Halpin (1964) and Halpin ior in glassy polymers with the attendant phenomena
and Polley (1967) developed a model similar to that involving crazing were presented by J.G. Williams
documented by M.L. Williams (1963) except that the and collaborators at the Imperial College of London,3
cohesive forces were modeled as molecules and not namely Isherwood and Williams (1970), Ferguson et al.
as viscoelastic—if simple—material elements, regard- (1973), Williams and Marshall (1974a, b, 1975), Mar-
less of the fact that isolated molecules in extension can shall et al. (1973). Parvin and Williams (1976) and Mai
and Williams (1977).
1 For this reason a very substantial effort had been devoted in Various aspects of related studies have been doc-
our laboratory to understanding nonlinearly viscoelastic polymer
behavior in the last 2–3 decades.
umented in worthwhile monographs. The earliest of
2 NASA has maintained a long standing interest and support for
fracture investigations and substantially supported much of the 3 The references cited here are symptomatic of these studies,
writer’ early fracture studies. rather than totally encompassing.

102 W. G. Knauss

these by E.H. Andrews (1968) is heavily oriented Griffith’s results, but erred in the choice of the geom-
towards the work by the early research at the British etry so as to arrive at the same functional relation but
Rubber Producers’ Research Association, all emanat- not with the same proportionality factor. The newer
ing from the work of Rivlin and Thomas (1953); view of crack tip localized mechanics was advanced
however, its presentation ended essentially in a time very significantly by M.L. Williams who, after studying
frame before significant progress in understanding the the stresses around sharp corner in plates (1951, 1952)
mechanics aspects of viscoelastic fracture had been demonstrated the universality of the square root singu-
understood to enter into his summary. A significant por- lar stress field at crack tips (1956), and Irwin (1957)
tion of it is devoted to displaying the role of molecular dealt with the localization of the fracture in the form of
conformations as part of a mechanics oriented frac- the singular stress field derived from the Griffith geom-
ture description of rubbers. On the other hand, dealing etry. Further contributions to the local theory of frac-
more with glassy, and mostly uncrosslinked polymers, ture were advanced by Bueckner (1958) and by Sanders
the monograph by J.G. Williams (1984) is principally (1960) who gave the localization argument in the form
oriented towards the needs of the practicing engineer, of a path-independent integral around the crack tip later
though anchored in the mechanics of fracture as gov- exploited by Rice (see, e.g. Rice 1971). It was left to
erned by the role of crazes and the related concepts of the multiple publications of Barenblatt (1956, 1959a, b,
plasticity effects. The 1985-book by his student A.J. 1962) who was familiar with the work of Irwin and of
Kinloch—together with R.J. Young—follows a simi- Bueckner, to re-introduce the cohesive forces argument
lar vein, though it includes more detail related to the advanced by Prandtl (1933) to elucidate the signif-
role of the molecular structure, but mostly with regard icance of the cohesive forces at the crack tip, which
to structural (rigid) polymers of the thermoplastic type was applied by Dugdale (1960) in terms of the perfect
and without extensive discussion on the role of vis- plasticity model for a steel sheet containing a slit.
coelasticity in these processes. Finally, the exegesis by Attempts to follow the global fracture criterion to
H.-H. Kausch (1987) devotes more discussion to the describe crack propagation (tear criterion) had led
microscopic and submicroscopic aspects of polymer to the extensive development in Great Britain under
behavior and its influence on the failure process from Rivlin (see Rivlin and Thomas 1953) then working
the viewpoint of the polymer physicist. It includes an at the British Rubber Producers Research Association,
extensive collection of data in this regard that might whose basic fracture ideas were carried on by Thomas
be characterized as an instructive guide to the forensic and collaborators (see, e.g., Greensmith and Thomas
analyst of polymer failures, but without extensive expo- 1955; Greensmith 1956, 1963, 1964; Greensmith et al.
sition of time dependent or viscoelastic aspects of the 1960 and Lake and Thomas 1967). These develop-
crack propagation process as discussed in the present ments produced the concept of a rate dependent tear
paper. energy5 which was also found to be temperature depen-
dent in virtually the same manner as basic viscoelastic
mechanical properties typically described today by the
2 Fracture models Williams–Landel–Ferry (WLF) description.6 On the
other hand, in attempting to duplicate the Griffith con-
Two views of describing fracture processes have cept for linearly viscoelastic materials—considerably
evolved over the years: The original (linearly elastic) later—Nuismer (1974) arrived at the conclusion that
treatment by Griffith (1921, 1924) has become known only the short term or glassy viscoelastic properties
as the global approach, which is based on the balance of dominated the development. This result was the conse-
stored energy in a whole structure, a portion of which
is required to generate new surface. An alternative con- 5 The term “tear energy” derived from the test configuration of
cept, namely that the work done by the unloading trac- the “trouser-leg” specimen typically used.
6 Today it is becoming increasingly accepted that this time–
tions at the tip of an advancing crack is offset directly by
the energy required to form new surface was advanced temperature reduction scheme has its origin in the work of Vogel
(1921), Fulcher (1925) and Tammann and Hesse (1926) who
first by Prandtl (1933)4 who attempted to duplicate addressed the temperature dependence of the viscosity of oily
liquids, of Silicate-glass melts and of a variety of supercooled
4 For the author’s translation into English see this reference, also. liquids, respectively.

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 103

quence of the classical singularity being involved with- relaxation or creep and that, therefore, the fracture
out a finitely sized cohesive zone, and, of necessity, evaluations based on it can always be fitted to data.
demanded infinite deformation rates at the crack tip, However, it has been experienced that the correlation
which then naturally engendered the glassy response between experiment and the powerlaw representation
characteristics. In the wake of earlier publications on suffered from the lack of certainty as to what part of
this topic (see below) this turned out to be an indication the relaxation spectrum was associated with the rele-
that the elimination of the singularity in the crack prop- vant velocity range of measured crack speed data. This
agation process is essential for viscoelastic materials; fact has not been recognized widely. An additional set
this requirement was fulfilled through the introduction of papers on crack propagation in linearly viscoelastic
of a cohesive zone (Prandtl 1933), which introduces a solids was offered by McCartney (1977, 1978, 1979)
non-dimensionalization similar to that provided by the which turned out, however to contain, essentially, more
Reynolds number in viscous flow (Knauss and Mueller limited or special cases of (Knauss 1973b) as pointed
1975a, b). out in documented discussions (Knauss 1979,9 1980).
A publication following the work of Barenblatt A review of this type would not be complete with-
(1956, 1959a, b, 1962), and disadvantaged somewhat out at least mentioning the contributions of A.N. Gent,
by lack of communication during the “cold war”, was whose polymer–physics based analyses, married with
offered by Kostrov and Nikitin (1970) which applied extensive laboratory data and its macroscopic interpre-
the local fracture criterion for crack propagation to a tations, has provided an especially useful link between
(linearly) viscoelastic solid. In the same time frame the solid mechanics and the molecular mechanics
and independently, Knauss (1969, 1970) and Mueller fields. Gent started his scientific career at the British
and Knauss (1971a, b)7 developed essentially the same Rubber Producers’ Research association before receiv-
model for steady crack propagation in linearly vis- ing his Ph.D from the University of London collaborat-
coelastic materials based on the cohesive zone model ing there with R.S. Rivlin (Gent and Rivlin 1952a, b, c)
(constant zone size), and corroborated the same well and Gent and Thomas (1958). His contributions to the
by crack propagation data derived from tests on a field of polymer and adhesive strength are too numer-
polyurethane material. The same model was applied to ous and far reaching to be analyzed here, (see e.g. Gent
the unsteady growth of cracks in the classical Griffith and Lai 1994; Gent et al. 1994; Gent 1996), much of it
geometry by Knauss (1970), similarly well supported addressing adhesion issues with viscoelastic adherends
by experimental results.8 A slight improvement in the and/or bonding agents. However, his often singular way
agreement between test data and theory for constant of looking at a problem has often been very success-
rates of crack propagation was accomplished through ful. It will suffice to present at least one example of
the introduction of a cohesive zone size that varies with his unique way of thinking (Gent 1996), but we shall
the amplitude of the stress intensity factor (Knauss defer discussion of that occurrence to Sect. 7.3 below
1973b, c). These developments will be delineated in in connection with the discussion of modeling steady
more detail below. Essentially the same model was sub- state crack propagation in elastomers.
sequently reported by Schapery in a sequence of papers,
which appeared in this Journal (Schapery 1975a, b, c),
except that Schapery approximated the material char- 3 More recent contributions
acteristics by a viscoeastic powerlaw representation, an
assumption that was not necessary in (Knauss 1973b). To inquire into more recent experimental or analyt-
The numerous publications were necessitated, in part, ical contributions on this topic, a web-based search
by justifying the model in terms of this powerlaw engine revealed several recent analysis-oriented pub-
approximation. Schapery points out that the power- lications (Greenwood and Johnson 1981; Greenwood
law representation is always valid for a part of the 2004; Persson and Brener 2005; Carbone and Persson
2005), apparently offered from the physics community
7 See also: Mueller (1968). with minimal recognition of the large data base repre-
8 A review of the status of viscoelastic fracture mechanics at that
time is summarized in (Knauss 1973a), along with an up-date in 9 For reading continuity note that the journal printer inter-
1986. changed two pages (R228 and R229).

104 W. G. Knauss

sented through the engineering related references listed sible via standard laboratory equipment to the chemists
here. Some of these results reproduce work of half and physicists who dominated the mechanical behav-
a century ago, but only Greenwood’s work is based ior field of polymers at that time. A major achieve-
on data derived from a collaboration on de-cohesion ment was the realization that such data followed the
processes with K.L. Johnson (Greenwood and Johnson same time–temperature reduction scheme that applied
1981). It is surprising, however, in this particular work, to the time–temperature dependent mechanical relax-
that the viscoelastic fracture model is based on the stan- ation and creep properties (Smith 1958). In the search
dard linear solid which offers only a single relaxation for a universal failure criterion as exemplified in uniax-
time, a representation we have found, over the years, ial tension tests Smith (1964) then attempted to elim-
to be inadequate for realistic material representation inate the effect of deformation history—and thus any
which typically requires at least ten relaxation times in time history—from such failure data by proposing a
its spectrum or more. Thus the results in (Greenwood failure envelope. This concept revolves around a pre-
2004) which extend the data over 8 decades of veloc- sentation of the uniaxial tensile failure data in a plot
ity is somewhat mysterious. The publications by Pers- of failure-stress versus failure-strain, in which neither
son and collaborators, do not contain comparisons with temperature nor history (e.g. strain rate) appeared as a
experimental fracture data. It is of interest to remark parameter, thus insinuating a history-independent sum-
on the assertion by Carbone and Persson (2005) that mary of failure behavior. It turned out, however, that
the high deformation rates at the crack tip give rise to this concept was easily upset by demonstrating that it
tremendous temperature rises, on the order of 1000 ◦ C did not apply to data gathered from dual-strain rate his-
For a limited discussion of this point see Sect. 7.2, in tories (e.g. a fast–slow sequence) if the sequence of the
connection with this topic on thermal crack tip effects. order of the high and of the low rate was interchanged
The major observation, which we derive from the (Knauss 1965) or if the material is stressed biaxially
review of publications to date, is, that all cited studies instead of uniaxially (Knauss 1967).
deal primarily with the steady state propagation of a As mentioned above, a mechanics-oriented exam-
crack, and deviations from that situation are given mini- ination of fracture behavior was initiated by Rivlin
mal if any attention. It is thus—apparently—commonly who at that time worked at the British Rubber Pro-
assumed that the steady state description applies instan- ducers Research Association in the UK by suggesting
taneously. It is for this reason that an extensive expo- the tear or fracture characterization in terms of a rate-
sition of the problems associated with the transient– dependent tear or fracture energy. The determination of
velocity behavior of cracks is included here as being this quantity hinged on test geometries for which the
strongly affected by specific material behavior. More- work done or energy stored per unit of crack advance
over, there is a marked absence of experimental data could be unambiguously and easily determined. The
on crack propagation behavior for elastomeric solids, configurations were primarily the tear specimen10 and
at least much less so than for the more rigid polymers. the “pure-shear” configurations shown in Fig. 2a,b.
Because studies of fracture in rigid polymers are typi- Because the configuration in Fig. 2b had the higher
cally not associated with viscoelastic phenomena, but chance of being amenable to a stresses analysis near
are seen usually in the frame work of elasto-plastic the crack tip through a two-dimensional (linearized)
behavior, we do not extend this review to that field but elasticity formulation it became the preferred tool in
restrict our presentation here to their most relevant cita- our laboratory to study crack propagation in viscoelas-
tions addressing viscoelastic elastomer fracture. tic materials. A third configuration in Fig. 2c evolved
later at the same British laboratories.
The crack propagation data acquired at the Laborato-
4 A brief review of the experimental crack ries of the (British) Natural Rubber Producers Research
propagation data available and developed Association provided the earliest indication that the
by the early 1970’s
10 M.L. Williams coined the “trouser-leg” terminology for the
configuration in Fig. 2a inasmuch as the leg-bottoms were being
In the 1950s the failure of viscoelastic solids, and in par- pulled apart in opposite directions while the “crutch” underwent
ticular elastomeric ones, was typically characterized in tear or fracture. The detailed stress analysis of the crack tip region
terms of uniaxial tension tests, which was readily acces- was, however, worse than formidable in those days.

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 105

(a) F range of tear propagation rates the tear force needed

to propagate a crack was temporarily reduced but the
crack then accelerated again. Although this phenom-
enon is most readily associated with the strain-induced
anisotropy of the natural rubber component in any
elastomer, the studies at the Natural Rubber Produc-
(b) ers’ Research Association found essentially the same
behavior for non-crystallizing elastomers of the GRS
and Butadiene–Styrene variety, to produce what has
become known as “stick-slip” and as “knotty” tearing.
The physical data generated over many years at the
laboratories of that Association provides some of the
most extensive repertoire of crack propagation data,
(c) F still today, even though it is limited to essentially char-
acterizing fracture in terms of a global, rather than
crack-tip local phenomenon even into the start of this
century (Tsunoda et al. 2000).
Upon evaluating these early results we have empha-
sized in our laboratory the description of fracture as a
crack-tip local phenomenon and established a data bank
on crack propagation behavior together with the rele-
Fig. 2 Specimen configurations to study the conversion of stored vant mechanical, viscoelastic behavior that ultimately
energy into fracture energy in elastomers. a Tear specimen. allowed addressing crack propagation behavior to be
b “Pure shear” specimen. c “Split tear” specimen described in the mechanics sense originally offered, in
principle, by Prandtl (1933), and by Barenblatt specif-
ically for brittle solids (1959a, 1959b, 1962). Because
fracture process was governed by the same mechanical
this local approach involves tracking the viscoelastic
constitutive properties typically characterizing defor-
deformations in the vicinity of the crack tip as a func-
mation problems in mechanics. Much of the effort there
tion of the crack speed it was necessary to carefully
was devoted to the constant-strain-rate characteriza-
determine the requisite mechanical properties. In con-
tion of the material, because the tear specimen alluded
nection with this publication we have (unsuccessfully)
to the extensional properties of the material. How-
searched the open literature for a comparative set of
ever, following T.L. Smith’s finding (1958) that uniax-
measurements. To understand this assessment, it must
ial tensile failure data could be reduced by the “WLF
be mentioned that in our laboratory great care was
shift process”, the researchers at the British Rubber
exercised in generating reproducible data so as to cir-
Producers’ Research Association11 demonstrated that
cumvent potential “stray” data that might cast doubt
the time–temperature shift principle correlated the tear
on the valid comparison of theoretical considerations
rate-dependence by the same rule, which also applied
and experimental data. Because the only viable analy-
to the reduction of classically (linearly) viscoelastic
sis tool available at the time—and this is largely still the
mechanical properties and thereby established for the
case today inasmuch relatively little is know about how
first time that fracture processes in elastomers are
to describe large deformation viscoelasticity—was the
essentially governed by the same mechanical prop-
linearly viscoelastic theory, a polyurethane material
erties applicable in typical boundary value problems.
was used as a demonstration material, which exhib-
The studies at that laboratory also demonstrated cer-
ited relatively low strain capability and crack prop-
tain instability issues in tear propagation: in a certain
agation under relatively low loads and strains, so as
to make the possible corroboration of laboratory data
Because of the politically changing landscape in the far east
regions of the natural rubber plantations the name of the organi-
with a theory based on linear viscoelasticity more likely
zation changed from “British” to “Natural” Rubber Producers’ to be productive. The material of choice was a pho-
Research Association early in the 1960s. toelastically sensitive Polyurethane elastomer, called

106 W. G. Knauss

Solithane 113.12 This material, originally developed reason for the variation observed in the magnitude of
for its photoelastic characteristics in connection with the fracture energy.13 From an historical perspective it
solid rocket motor stress analysis (see Fig. 1), was may be of interest to note that all of Schapery’s pub-
explored for the specific purpose to study strength char- lications on viscoelastic crack propagation (Schapery
acteristics under an Air Force funded research program 1975a, b, c) were based on comparisons with the crack
with the intention to allow various laboratories to share propagation and mechanical properties data derived in
mechanical viscoelastic properties data so as to facili- our laboratories for this particular material and result-
tate research interaction by reducing the cost of acquir- ing from this elaborate characterization evolution.
ing mechanical properties. The material was generated Details depending on the fracture data are best
in our laboratory in a specially designed facility under reserved for later when the comparison of measure-
stringent moisture and temperature control and sub- ments with the analysis are discussed. At this point it
jected to an extensive test program to identify its repro- is useful to record in Fig. 3 only the compliance data,
ducibility and minimal property variations (Knauss and which is shown for all sheets employed in the crack
Mueller 1967). Nevertheless, it turned out that some propagation measurements used in (Knauss 1973b), to
properties, specifically the long-term energy of frac- illustrate the point made in the previous paragraph, even
ture, which emerged as an important fracture parame- though the subsequent fracture analysis is illustrated
ter, varied apparently, and primarily due to ageing of with more limited data derived from only two sheets.
the material, while the viscoelastic constitutive proper- The reader is encouraged to review the papers by the
ties remained much more stable. Because fracture data author in the references list (e.g. 1973b). These data
accumulated over a time frame of months indicated that resulted from test data at various temperatures shown
while the relaxation (or creep) behavior of the com- in that figure; the trade-off relation (time–temperature
pound was rather stable, the variation of the intrinsic shift data) between the retardation time spectrum and
fracture energy (for definition see the later text) could the temperature is displayed in Fig. 4.
vary substantially (Mueller and Knauss 1971a). For A literature search for a comparable data evolv-
this reason the determination of the physical proper- ing since the late 1960 did not appear to produce
ties were extended over a 1-year long ageing period. any significantly new experimental results, so that
Moreover, to provide an assessment of the material the most successful descriptions of viscoelastic frac-
variability introduced in the manufacture of the sheet ture, based on the theory of linear viscoelasticity,
material used for fracture test specimen, ultimately five namely the author’s contributions and the later work
sheets were separately produced for fracture tests, of by Schapery (1975a, b, c) relied exclusively on the
which only two provided indistinguishable creep com- measurements from our laboratories described below.
pliances, with a total time spread in that data varying Indeed, Schapery’s results in (1975c, Figs. 1, 4) employ
about 1/3 of a decade, or, alternatively, a maximal factor the data identical to those in Knauss (1970, 1969),
of nearly 1.8 in the magnitude of the creep compliance but with a disparity between measured and calculated
in the transition region. This uncertainty in the proper- data in his Fig. 1 that is greater than that in the earlier
ties of the non-fracture data is, most likely, the major presentation by Knauss (1970, 1969). Apart from the
surprising lack of more extensive time dependent vis-
12 This material was manufactured by the Thiokol Chemical coelastic fracture data—excepting Alan Gent’s numer-
Corporation as a two-component system—useful for photoelas-
tic stress analysis purposes—consisting of the so-called Urethane
ous contributions, and the 2000 publication by Tsun-
Resin (Thiokol Solithane 113 Urethane Resin) and the Catalyst oda et al., which was still based on the global energy
(Thiokol Urethane Resin Catalyst). The Resin is a trifunctional analysis spearheaded by Rivlin and Thomas (1953)—
isocyanate, resulting from a reaction between Castor Oil and the internet-based literature search did, however, find
Toluenediisocyanate (TDI). The addition of the Catalyst pro-
vides the crosslinking of the Resin, and cure proceeds at ele-
more recent theoretical contributions to the fracture
vated temperature. Different mix ratios provide elastomers of behavior of viscoelastic materials, which will be dis-
varying physical properties. The work reported here is based cussed chronologically below.
on the equal volume mixture, usually referred to as the 50/50
composition. Casting against polished Aluminum mold surfaces
at 60 ◦ C, the cure proceeded at 165 ◦ C to produce transparent 13 Note that, as seen later, the intrinsic fracture energy is a
sheets of 12 × 12 of desired thicknesses (Knauss and Mueller property deduced analytically from test data, which deduction
1967). involves the creep compliance.

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 107

Fig. 3 Creep compliance of

Solithane 113 [Although the
mix-ratio of the two
component polyurethane
system allowed the
production of wide range of
physical properties (Knauss
1976) all fracture related
results presented here are
associated with the
equivoluminal composition
designate by (50/50)]
(50/50) from five different
production batches. Batch
numbers 1 and 5 rendered
the same trace within
plotting accuracy

mostly non-crosslinked—polymers involving crazing

phenomena. It may not be possible to review even
the majority of such investigations, but it would
seem incomplete to totally ignore this aspect of poly-
mer fracture, since under certain high rate deforma-
tion processes (e.g. explosive environments) the elas-
tomeric material may respond very similarly as the
(crosslinked) glassy polymers (see Sect. 8.6). How-
ever, in most if not all of these investigations the time-
dependent issues are not at the forefront, though the
result of long-term exposure to elevated loads is always
present as a durability issue. Major contributors to
investigations of the nature and role of crazing as it
ultimately affects the character of crack propagation
are: Berry (1960, 1962, 1964), Bueche and Halpin
(1964), Kambour (1970) and Kambour and Robertson
(1972), Lauterwasser and Kramer (1979) and Kramer
and Hart (1984), Sternstein (see, e.g. Cessna and Stern-
stein 1965, 1967; Sternstein et al. 1968)) and, last but
not least, J.G. Williams (Ferguson et al. 1973; Mar-
shall et al. 1970, 1973, 1974; Williams and Marshall
Fig. 4 Time–temperature shift factor for Solithane 113 (50/50 1974a, b, 1975; Mai and Williams 1977). A crack-layer
composition) for data in Fig. 3. Also included are data related to concept for crack propagation in plastics has been pro-
crack propagation discussed later posed by Chudnowsky and co-workers, that minimizes
the detailed structure of the craze zone and its evolution
Compared to the fracture data documenting crack under various load histories (see, e.g. Chudnovsky et al.
propagation in elastomers there is a sizeable exper- 1983; Botsis et al. 1987a, b; Kadota and Chudnovsky
imental data base related to fracture in glassy— 1992; Gregory and Botsis 1991; Kim et al. 1993). Also,

108 W. G. Knauss

the experimental studies by Brown (e.g. Brown and

Bhattacharya 1985; Lu et al. 1988; Wang and Brown
1989) on the same topics as discussed by Chudnowsky
and collaborators is of interest in this context. As men-
tioned before, possibly excepting the work by Brown,
the time-dependence of the fracture process has played
a secondary role in the investigations for these material.
For this reason the sequel will not consider this particu-
lar topic in detail except for the following few remarks:
These considerations of fracture in thermoplastic mate-
rials have, however, in common with the fracture of
elastomers that both fields involve the necessary exis-
Fig. 5 Result of material break-down at the crack tip through
tence of a cohesive zone at the tip of a crack, though the microscopic damage at the crack tip
detailed nature of the cohesive force evolution has dif-
ferent micro-mechanical sources and processes, even if
both material zones originate in the formation of vac- sive action at the crack tip in brittle materials. In many
uoles or voiding under the influence of the high stresses polymers the disintegration of the continuum into a
at crack tips. discontinuous form is associated with a local defect
growth at a very small scale so that cohesive zones
develop across which forces act in a transient manner
5 Analysis of crack propagation in (linearly) and the work done against this disintegrating molecu-
viscoelastic solids lar/microscopic structure is then associated with what
is generally termed the fracture energy, and which rep-
Let us consider briefly the main difference between resents then one of the energy sinks involved in the
the “global” fracture considerations as implemented for fracture process. The stress sustained during this pas-
linearly elastic solids by Griffith (1921, 1924), and by sage from the continuum of the fractured material by
the “local” criterion initiated by Prandtl (1933). Recall way of such void growth is indicated qualitatively in
that the global model is based on the energy balance Fig. 5.
of a full sized elastic structure containing a crack and The additional energy sink for a viscoelastic mate-
tracing the changes of the total energy content vis à vis rial is the energy dissipated in the rate (crack veloc-
the energy required to form new surface, this balance ity) dependent deformation field surrounding the crack
is achieved readily because there are (presumably) no tip. We believe that it was a major merit of the early,
other competing energy losses in the crack propagation mechanics-based papers on viscoelastic crack propaga-
process. In a viscoelastic material—as in the case of tion by Knauss (1969, 1970) and Mueller and Knauss
plasticity—this situation clearly does not apply because (1971b) to demonstrate—in contrast to the assump-
any crack motion generates energy dissipation other tions underlying the work at the Natural Rubber Pro-
than that required to produce new fracture surface. For ducers’ Research Association—that this separation of
this reason consideration of the details at the crack tip the energy losses could be achieved—mathematically
are necessary to account for the various energy loss in product form—through a rate-independent fracture
mechanisms in detail. energy, later referred to as the intrinsic fracture energy,
A fundamental part of the local failure process is and that the rate dependence of any measured fracture
the transition of the highly stressed continuum into the energy could be allocated to a dissipation factor result-
separated (cracked) form. Along with Griffith (1921, ing from the deformation field surrounding the moving
1924), Prandtl (1933) considered this to occur in a crack tip.
clean atomically configured cleavage without the need During crack propagation all deformations are here
to specify alternative processes. Similarly, Barenblatt assumed symmetric with respect to the crack axis.
(1956, 1959a, b, 1962) developed the concept of “equi- Although a finite material element near the crack tip—
librium cracks” along similar lines of thinking by mak- cf. Figure 6a—experiences a stress state more complex
ing essentially atomic forces responsible for the cohe- than the uniaxial one, it suffices for the present purposes

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 109

would have to account for the damaged material along

the crack flanks would remain open. However, if we
choose to eliminate the cohesive material while retain-
ing the forces which it exerts on the upper and lower
segments of the crack tip, we arrive tentatively at a
boundary which is straight in the undeformed state. The
surface of the boundary is traction free over that por-
tion representing the crack surface (X < 0 in Fig. 6e),
an adjacent section of which (0 ≤ x < α in Fig. 6e)
carries prescribed tractions representing the cohesive
forces. The remainder (x ≥ α in Fig. 6e) is restrained
from motion normal to the crack axis, which represents
the uncut and “undamaged” portion of the solid.
It should be stated explicitly that this approximate
version of the physical situation, namely the elimina-
tion of the cohesive material as such implies that the
possible interaction between the crack tip near mater-
ial and the cohesive (“voided”) material is eliminated, a
proposition that is not uniformly applicable to all poly-
meric solids. For example, it its believed that in the case
of crack propagation in materials generating crazed
zones such an approximation may not be valid since
in that case a major contribution of the time depen-
dent crack growth response may be governed by the
Fig. 6 The role of the disintegrating material at the moving crack
tip in providing temporary cohesive forces time dependent behavior of the crazing material. On
the other hand, the replacement of the cohesive material
by tractions that do not depend on the damaged mate-
to consider the element in this simple stress state; the rial response does not preclude these tractions from
reason for this simplification will be understood along depending on the rate of crack propagation. Moreover,
with later and additional assumptions. As this material this simplification is synonymous with the assumption
element is approached by the advancing crack tip, it that fracture occurs, essentially, only through the frac-
develops microscopic voids as discussed above. In the ture of (chemical) bonds, regardless of the details of
process of passing from an undamaged state ahead of the microscopic disintegration process.
the crack through the crack-tip region to a “mechan- We next simplify the distribution of the cohesive
ically disintegrated state”, the element has provided forces further to a bilinear distribution, as shown in
cohesive stresses which, as in Fig. 5, pass through a Fig. 6e, leaving the magnitude of σ0 and the lengths
maximum and then drop to zero on the crack surfaces. α and β arbitrary. In contrast to usual practice for the
The corresponding stress distribution holding the crack fracture of rate-independent material, where, usually,
tip together is shown qualitatively in Fig. 6b, but it may β = 0, the linear portion of this distribution 0 ≤ x ≥ β
differ considerably with respect to detail. is retained for two reasons. First, the extra parameter
The material providing these cohesive stresses spans β may be used to investigate whether the change in
the crack axis over a possibly thin layer, as shown by stress distribution, resulting from a variation in β, is
the dots in Fig. 6c, although this region would pos- of any consequence for the crack-propagation behav-
sess rather diffuse boundaries. In the formulation of ior, or whether the latter is insensitive to such simple
the viscoelastic-boundary-value problem for a mov- variations. Second, it seems reasonable from a physi-
ing crack tip, we would have to choose a boundary cal viewpoint that the stress distribution should be at
of the type shown in Fig. 6d, for which the dotted least continuous for a continuously moving crack tip.
region (viewed here as indentations into the two half- Moreover, the occurrence of step functions, such as
spaces) moves to the right; the question of how one afforded by a distribution for which β = 0 engen-

110 W. G. Knauss

ders mathematical inconvenience in the application of

the theory of viscoelasticity which is circumvented by
allowing β to be finite. The case of a constant cohesive
stress may be obtained ultimately by letting β → 0, if
Let us summarize the important points of this sec-
tion. We have deduced from qualitative experimental
observations a physical model of material deterioration
at the tip of a moving crack. The de-cohering material
provides the traction boundary conditions for a simply Fig. 7 Crack-tip domain
posed boundary-value problem which is amenable to
an exact solution within the realm of linear viscoelas-
We call the second criterion, a statement of the (crack
ticity theory. Implicit in the formulation of this sim-
tip-local) law of conservation of energy, the “energy cri-
plified boundary-value problem is the assumption that
terion”. In view of the assumptions on the effect of the
the time dependence of the crack-propagation process
cohesive material in the previous Section, one demands
is derived primarily from the bulk solid surrounding
that the work done against the cohesive forces be a con-
the moving crack tip and not from the possible rate
stant, i.e., independent of the velocity of crack propa-
sensitivity of the disintegrating material. This assump-
tion needs to be checked experimentally (see below).
To give these criteria substance, we first state the
Finally, we see at this point no a priori limitation of
boundary-value problem which is to simulate the prop-
the crack-propagation model to thin sheets, but argue,
agating crack and then state the maximum strain (crack-
subject to experimental verification, that the physical
opening) and energy criteria. These statements con-
processes described can occur at crack tips in both thick
nect the (steady) crack-propagation velocity with the
and thin sections without being identical.
applied far-field stresses inducing the crack propaga-
Consider, then, the tip of a crack in a region R of
5.1 Criteria for crack propagation
a plane possessing isotropic and linearly viscoelastic
properties as shown in Fig. 7, with tractions T A on
The previous section presented an outline of a phys-
the boundary A of the region producing deformations
ical process leading to crack propagation. We retain
which are symmetric with respect to the crack axis. In
in this model only the average stresses exerted by the
a two-dimensional reference frame X , y, affixed to the
decomposing material for the purpose of satisfying the
crack tip moving to the right with velocity ȧ, let τx y ,
equilibrium of the quasi-static stress field; since the
σ X and σ y be, respectively, the shear stress and normal
details of the material decomposition process are not
components of the stress tensor, and let u x and u y be the
included one must supplant the latter by an additional
displacement components in the X - and y-directions.
hypothesis. This hypothesis is referred to as a criterion
For reasons of symmetry in loading and geometry, the
of fracture or of crack propagation. Consider here two
shear traction vanishes on y = 0. In accordance with
such criteria.
the developments of the last section and with reference
We call the first criterion the “maximum strain cri-
to Fig. 6e, the remaining boundary conditions are pre-
terion”. This criterion assumes that the disintegrating
scribed as
material loses cohesiveness at a finite strain indicated ⎧
⎨0 X ≤0
as εm in Fig. 5. Since we have allowed the weakened σ
σ y (X, 0) = β0 X 0 < X ≤ β
material to occupy a vanishingly thin layer or line along ⎩
σ0 β<X ≤α
the crack axis, it is consistent with this approximation to
require as an equivalent criterion that the crack-opening u y (X, 0, ȧ) = 0X > α (1)
displacement be a specified value at the point where the The question whether σ0 , α, and β are material con-
cohesive forces decay to zero, i.e., at X = 0 in Fig. 6e. stants or not remains open; the answer will be dis-
Moreover, we assume that this strain or displacement cussed in connection with the evaluation of the two
be a constant, i.e., independent of the crack-tip velocity. criteria via the experimental evidence. The velocity ȧ

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 111

is supposed to be so small that neither inertial effects provided one includes in the consideration only that
nor crack-tip heating due to viscous energy dissipation part of the crack surface X ≤ 0 which is free of trac-
are deemed important (see further discussion on this tions. Now remove the lower half of the region R and
topic in Sect. 7.2). The question that now motivates us replace it by the equipollent traction Tn (cf. Fig. 7b)
further is: How are the tractions T A in Fig. 7 related which it exerts on the upper half. Then apply the first
quantitatively to the crack-tip velocity ȧ. law of thermodynamics to this (half) body and note that
it is only a body in equilibrium under surface tractions
5.1.1 Crack opening displacement or ultimate, all around without any semblance of a crack. There-
constant strain criterion fore, the surface energy does not now play a role, but
one identifies a term representing the work done on the
Suppose that the displacement at the crack tip is always half-body over the surface AC as shown in Fig. 7b. By
constrained by taking into account the directions of the traction and
displacement vectors, one obtains
u y (0, 0, ȧ) = u 0 (2)

1  1 
with u 0 an as yet unknown constant, i.e., independent Q̇ + Ȧ − Tn (X ) · u̇ y (X, 0, ȧ) d X = Ḋ+ Ẇ
2 2
of the applied loads and independent of the crack-tip AC
velocity. To evaluate this criterion it is necessary to (5)
determine the crack surface displacement u y normal to
the crack axis as a function of the traction applied to Upon comparing Eqs. 4 and 5 and recalling Eq. 1, one
R and as a function of the crack-tip velocity ȧ. One finds for any instant
then needs to examine whether experimental evidence 
permits a coordination of these tractions with the crack- Tn (X ) · u̇ y (X, 0, ȧ) d X = Ṡ (6)
tip velocity ȧ when u y (0, 0, ȧ) remains a constant.

5.1.2 Energy criterion If the energy required to form a unit of new surface
is independent of the loading and of the rate of crack
For rate-insensitive solids Prandtl (1933)—see also
growth, then Ṡ =  ȧ where  is a constant called
Barenblatt (1956, 1959a, b, 1962)—has shown how the
the intrinsic fracture energy. Having already chosen the
unloading tractions at the crack tip do work, which
traction Tn (X ) in accordance with Fig. 6e, one needs
is equal to the surface-energy requirement postulated
to determine the displacement profile of the “crack sur-
by Griffith. The question now arises whether a similar
face” in the cohesion zone 0 ≤ x ≥ α as a function of
argument is sufficient to establish not only the onset of
the tip velocity ȧ. For the steadily moving crack, trans-
fracture propagation in rate-insensitive, brittle solids,
form the time derivative in Eq. 6 into a spatial derivative
but also the condition for continuous crack propagation.
to obtain
If we denote by 
∂u y
 − Tn (X ) · (X, 0, ȧ) d X =  (7)
Ȧ = T A · u̇ A ds (3) AC
→ →
A Now recall again Eq. 1 and in particular that Tn (0) = 0,
u y (α, 0, ȧ) = 0, and Tn = σo = constant for β < X <
the rate at which the tractions T A do work on the surface α; these facts and integration of Eq. 7 by parts yields
A of the region R in Fig. 7a and if Ḋ, Ẇ , Ṡ, and Q̇

denote, respectively, the rate of energy dissipation in β
u y (X, 0, ȧ)d X = (8)
R, the rate at which the stored energy changes, the rate σ0
of change of the surface energy, and the rate at which 0

heat is added to R, then the first law of thermodynamics To evaluate both the displacement criterion and the
requires that energy criterion, one needs to calculate, thus, only the
velocity-dependent displacement profile in the part of
Q̇ + Ȧ = Ḋ + Ẇ + 2 Ṡ (4) the material disintegration zone 0 ≤ x ≤ β. Note also

112 W. G. Knauss

that if /σ0 is constant then for β → 0 the two criteria u x (X, y, ȧ) + iu y (X, y, ȧ)
of Eqs. 2 and 8 are equivalent and independently so of 1   
the crack speed. = J (t) κφ (ż) − φ(ż) − ż − ż¯ φ  (ż)
1 ∂ 
+ J (t −ξ ) κφ(z)−φ(z) − (z − z̄)φ  (z) dξ
2 ∂ξ
5.2 Solution to the viscoelastic-boundary-value 0
problem representing the moving crack (9)

Because the cohesive zone α is small compared to The first term on the right of Eq. 9 represents the
all other physical dimensions it suffices to consider displacement contribution due to an initial step-load
only the immediate neighborhood of the crack tip; it application. We are interested only in the motion of
is required to determine the displacement u y (X, 0, ȧ) the crack long after the starting transients have sub-
along 0 ≤ X ≥ α as a function of the load distribu- sided and the crack has enlarged from its initial geom-
tion over that domain. Sufficient details of the compu- etry. Under these conditions, the first term contributes
tations are presented in (Knauss 1973b); the relevant nothing to the crack opening displacement and we may
viscoelastic stress analysis is simplified through the neglect it in the further development. As stated earlier,
observation that the stress distribution for the under- the stresses derived from Eq. 9 via the stress–strain
lying boundary value problem is the same as for equations for a homogeneous, isotropic, and linearly
the linearly elastic problem, because (a) only trac- viscoelastic solid (ν = 1/2) yield a stress distribution
tions are prescribed on the boundary, including the which moves with the crack tip and which satisfies the
crack surfaces; (b) the tractions on the crack sur- boundary conditions in Eq. 1 on the crack, provided
faces are self-equilibrating; and (c) no body forces (see, e.g., Muskhelishvili 1963 and England 1971)
are present. Under this set of restrictions, the mate-
rial properties can be factored out of the linearized α √
 1 σ y (τ ) τ − α
field equations, thus leaving the latter independent of φ (z) = √ dτ (10)
2πi z − α τ −z
the material properties. The components of the strain 0
tensor and of the displacement vector are, however,
dependent upon the material properties and hence where σ y (τ ) is the normal traction on the crack surface
are, functions of the stress or load history. That this (cf. Fig. 6e). In addition, φ (z) must also satisfy the
result should hold also for a crack enlarging quasi- far-field boundary conditions on the tractions T A (cf.
statically and rectilinearly may be deduced by way Fig. 7) which drive the crack. It has already been indi-
of the Kolosoff–Muskhelishvili method of complex cated that only the dominant part of the stress field near
potentials (Muskhelishvili 1963; England 1971) for the the crack tip is to be retained, which results from these
linearly elastic plane under the provisions (a)–(c) above far-field boundary conditions. This is accomplished by
(see Knauss 1973b). including in φ (z) an additive function
With the application of these calculations to an elas-
K √
tomer in mind, introduce one further simplification by φ f (z) = √ z−α (11)
assuming an incompressible solid (Poisson’s ratio ν = 2π
1/2). Let J (t) be the creep compliance in shear and which leaves the crack surface completely traction free
define for plane strain the constant κ = 3−4ν = 1, and for X < α. The factor K is termed the stress-intensity
for generalized plane stress κ = (3 − ν) / (1 + ν) = factor; it contains the far-field boundary conditions as
5/3. For the construction of the displacement compo- well as the geometry if the solid has finite dimensions
nents, we write the latter in terms of a single function in the plane, such as other cracks or holes, etc. Because
φ (see Muskhelishvili 1963; England 1971; Rice 1971) of the assumed symmetry in this problem, such bound-
as a result of the symmetry of the problem with self- aries must fall into the same symmetric pattern. The
equilibrating tractions on the crack surfaces. Define function φ (z) in Eq. 9 is thus the sum of φ f (z), Eq. 11,
X = x − ȧt, z = X + i y, ż = x + i y, and the displace- and the function, say, φc (z), obtained by integrating
ment components which depend on the crack speed ȧ Eq. 10, and which satisfies the boundary conditions on
by the crack surfaces; one has thus

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 113

φ (z) = φ f (z) + φc (z) (12) 3 π K
σo = √ (17)
4 2 α
The function φc (z) may be evaluated readily from
Eq. 10 by employing Eq. 1, but the calculations are Upon defining
tedious; the final result is

σ0 α β − z C + C0 α 1
φc (z) = i ln − C0 C A= 1 − C0 − 1 − C0 + C0
π 2α C − C0 β 3
2 2
α β −z C −C0 z2 C +1
+ ln − ln
2β 2α 2 C +C0 2α 2 C −1 and taking account of Eqs. 11, 12, 13, and 15, one finds
z 1   √

− (1 − C0 ) 1 + C+ 1 − C0 C
3 K α A β −z C +C0
φ (z) = i √ C+ ln − C0 C
α 3 2π 2 2α C −C0
(13) 2 2
Aα β −z C −C0 z2 C +1
ln − ln
where C = [1 − z/α]1/2 and C0 = [1 − β/α]1/2 . 4β 2α 2 C +C0 2α 2 C −1
Now Eqs. 11 and 13 render φ (z) through Eq. 12. Both z 1  
Eq. 11 and Eq. 13 provide stresses which diverge as − (1 − C0 ) 1 + C+ 1 − C0 C
α 3
the inverse square root of the distance from the point (19)
(X = α, y = 0). The combination of Eqs. 11 and 13
allows the elimination of such singular stresses by a For the determination of the crack surface displacement
proper choice of σ0 , α and β in terms of the stress- over 0 ≤ X ≤ β evaluate Eq. 9 on the crack axis y = 0
intensity factor K . This is accomplished by letting the through the use of Eq. 19. It can be shown that on y = 0,
coefficient, multiplying the (combined) singularity and (z − z)φ(z) in the integrand of Eq. 9 vanishes and that
resulting from φ (z) in Eq. 12, vanish. This coefficient, φ(z) = −φ (z). We observe, furthermore, that for all
say K 0 , is given by X ≥ α the normal displacement uy is zero. This fact can
be used to change the lower limit of the integral in Eq. 9.
√ √
K 0 = 2 2π lim z − αφ  (z) (14) To see this, consider a point x0 on the crack axis ahead
of the crack; suppose that the crack tip is stationary
and the point x0 moves to the left with the crack-tip
The vanishing of K 0 gives a relation, called the finite-
velocity ȧ, and then concentrate on the displacement
ness.condition, which links K 0 , σ0 , α and β by
u y of the point x0 . Evidently, the point experiences no
 displacement at all until the time t0 when it reaches the
1 π K 3β/2α
σo = √ (15) tip at X = α. Moreover, any displacement subsequent
2 2 α 1 − Co3
to this event at t0 is a function only of the time which
has elapsed since the point passed X = 0; by virtue of
Although the stress-intensity factor K appears here as
the constancy of ȧ it is thus also only a function of the
well as subsequently, the stresses are now finite every-
distance from X = α. Use this latter fact to transform
where in the crack-tip region; therefore, K is only a
the time integral for the displacement u y in Eq, 9 to a
parameter representing the far-field loading conditions
spatial integral. Denote by ‘Im’ the imaginary part of a
and the geometry of the body apart from the crack tip.
complex function, so that
Note that for β → 0, Eq. 15 reduces to the well-known
result for a constant cohesive (yield) stress (see, e.g., t
κ +1 ∂φ(z)
Rice 1971) u y (x, 0, ȧ) = Im J (t − ξ ) dξ
y→0+ 2 ∂ξ
1 π K
σo = √ (16) (20)
2 2 α
while for β = α, representing a cohesive force distri-

bution which rises linearly from X = 0 to X = α, one K α
Im φ (z) = √ f (X ) (21)
obtains for the maximum stress y→0+ 2π

114 W. G. Knauss

For nondimensionalization let

X (t) X (ξ )
ρ= ;r =
α α
F (r ) = f (αr ) ; F  (r ) = α f  (αr ) (27)
so that Eq. 24 reads

κ +1 K α ⎨
u y (ρ, 0, ȧ) = √ J0 F (ρ)
2 2π ⎩

1 α  ⎬
Fig. 8 Definition and transformation of crack-tip parameters and − J (r − ρ) F  (r )dr
geometry ȧ ⎭
A β − X C + C0
f (X ) = C + ln − C0 C R = β/α
2 2α C − C0
A = A (R)
Aα β 2 − X 2 C −C0 X 2 C +1 
+ ln − ln A R − r C + C0
4β 2α 2 C +C0 2α 2 C −1 F (r ) = C + ln − C0 C
    2 2 C − C0
X 1 2
− (1 − C0 ) 1 + C+ 1 − C03 C Aα R − r 2 C − C0 r 2 C + 1
α 3 + ln − ln
4β 2 C + C0 2 C − 1
with C = [1 − X/α]1/2 and C0 = [1 − β/α]1/2 . Also, − (1 − C0 ) (1 + r ) C + 1 − C0 C
C = [1 − r ]1/2

J (t) = J0 + J (t) (23) C0 = [1 − R]1/2

where J (t) represents the transient creep response It remains to write this in terms of the tensile creep
such that J (0) = 0, and J0 is the initial or glassy compliance exhibited in Fig. 3 for the numerical eval-
compliance. Upon remembering that X = x − ȧt, uation of Eq. 28. Because of the assumed incompress-
Eq. 20 may then be written as ibility of the material, one has for the uniaxial creep
√ compliance D (t)
κ +1 K α
u y (X, 0, ȧ) = √ {J0 f (x − ȧt)
2 2π
⎫ J (t) = 3D (t) (29)
t ⎬

+ J (t − ξ ) f (x − ȧξ )dξ Separate D (t) into its glassy and transient components
∂ξ ⎭
t0 D0 and D (t), with D (0) = 0. It will be seen
(24) later that the disintegration zone α is much smaller
than the sheet thickness employed in the experiments.
Without consequence set t0 = 0 and with reference to
It is thus currently assumed that for the local, crack-tip-
Fig. 8 define ζ and η by
dominated solution, conditions of plane strain prevail.
However, subsequently a stress-intensity factor is used,
X (t) = x − ȧt = α − ζ
. (25) which is determined from conditions of plane stress far
X (ξ ) = x − ȧξ = α − η
away from the crack tip; this condition is indicative
of the thin-sheet geometry which governs the stress
state throughout the major, far-field portion of the strip
ζ −η X (ξ ) − X (t) geometry used in the experiments. The present assump-
t −ξ = = . (26) tion of local plane strain conditions should thus be
ȧ ȧ

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 115

viewed as an improvement on the crack-tip tress state we consider that σ0 instead of α remains constant14 and
as afforded by the plane stress field. Let us write thus represents some ultimate stress of the solid, similar to
for Eq. 28 with κ = 1 but not necessarily equal to the molecular strength of
⎧ the material. In that case α and β depend on the mag-

3K α ⎨ nitude of the load parameter (stress intensity factor)
u y (ρ, 0, ȧ) = √ D0 F (ρ)
2π ⎩ K.
⎫ With regard to the choice of β anticipate here some
1 α  ⎬ numerical results. On the basis of computations to be
− D (r − ρ) F  (r )dr discussed presently, the effect of varying β as examined
ȧ ⎭
ρ between the limits zero and α, leads to results that are,
(30) practically speaking, independent of β within plotting
accuracy. Since β was, in part, incorporated into the
analysis to effect a change in the cohesive force dis-
6 Evaluation of the crack propagation criteria tribution, one concludes that this distribution is rela-
tively unimportant for the crack-propagation process, at
Further evaluation results from substituting the dis- least for the material studied here. For rate-insensitive
placement Eq. 30 into the maximum strain criterion solids, this conclusion had been reached by Barenblatt
Eq. 2 and the energy criterion Eq. 8. The remainder has (1962) also, for the case when the cohesive zone is
to be accomplished numerically. First the two criteria small compared with any other dimensions of the solid.
are compared with each other and then with experi- That this result should be true for rate-sensitive solids
mental data. As a consequence of the comparison with is not immediately obvious, though. In the numerical
experimental measurements, some of the hitherto unde- work we have arbitrarily set R = 1/2. For brevity of
termined parameters will then be specified. notation, define, with E ∞ = 1/D (∞)15
ϑ ,ρ

6.1 Comparison of the two fracture criteria ⎧ ⎫
⎨ 1 α  ⎬
= E ∞ D0 F (ρ) − D (r − ρ) F  (r )dr
Consider first the implications of the finiteness condi- ⎩ ȧ ⎭
tion, Eq. 15, in connection with its effect on the dis-
placement (Eq. 30). The latter contains the load para- (31)
meter K and the size of the cohesive zone α in the argu- and
ment of the creep compliance; but K , α, β, and σ0 are
connected by Eq. 15 and are therefore not independent R
α  A (R) α 
of each other. In general, one must expect thus, that with
R = ϑ , ρ dρ (32)
changing K —usually implying a change in the crack- ȧ R ȧ
propagation speed—all three parameters, σ0 , α and β
change and become thus functions of the crack veloc-
so that Eq. 30 reads as
ity. Consider two special cases. First, that α remain
constant and that σ0 and β vary for different values of √
the stress intensity factor K in such a way that Eq, 15 is 3K α α 
u y (ρ, 0, ȧ) = √ ϑ ,ρ . (33)
satisfied. One then finds that a change in β alone cannot 2π E ∞ ȧ
satisfy Eq. 15 for all values of K of interest, but that for
sufficiently large K , an increase in the latter requires The crack-opening criterion (ultimate. constant strain
an increase in the maximum cohesive stress σ0 . Since criterion) of Eq. 2 requires then that the crack velocity
an increase in K results usually in an increased crack ȧ a be related to the load parameter K through
velocity, it would follow that an increase in crack veloc-
ity is associated also with an increase in the cohesive 14 This assumption is relinquished in (Knauss and Losi 1993).
stress; such a finding would be consistent with other 15 ϑ αȧ , ρ is a function of R also by virtue of F (r ), Eqs. 27
rate-sensitive properties of viscoelastic solids. Second, and 28.

116 W. G. Knauss

Fig. 9 “Pure Shear” or strip

geometry for crack
propagation tests

3K α α  the stress-intensity factor for a quasi-statically moving
√ ϑ , 0 = u0 (34)
2π E ∞ ȧ crack is (for generalized plane stress and ν =1/2)

If α = α0 = constant, this converts to 4 2 2

K2 = E ε b (40)
√ 3 ∞ ∞
3K α0 α0 
√ ϑ , 0 = u0 (35) Insertion of Eq. 40 into Eq. 35 and Eqs. 37 through 39
2π E ∞ ȧ
relates the steady rate of crack propagation ȧ to the
while for σ0 = constant, Eq. 15, in the form applied strain ε∞ through the two variants of the two
hypothetical fracture criteria. Upon using the notational
√ π K A (R)
α= (36)
2 σ0 2
π bE ∞
2 A2 (R)
Q= (41)
demands 6σ02

3 K 2 A (R) π K 2 A2 (R) one finds that the fracture criteria now appear as fol-
ϑ , 0 = u0 (37) lows:
4 σ0 E ∞ 8σ02 ȧ
From Eq. 35, the crack opening displacement cri-
terion becomes
The same considerations apply to the energy criterion,
Eq. 8. In view of the normalization preceding Eq. 27 0 π u0
and the definition in Eq. 32, this criterion can be written, ε∞ ϑ ,0 = √ , α0 = constant (42)
ȧ 6 bα0
for α = α0 = constant as
α  and from Eq. 36
3 2 0
K R = E∞ (38)
4 ȧ  
Qε∞ 2 σ0 u 0
ϑ ,0 = , σ0 = constant (43)
and for constant σ0 as ȧ E ∞ A (R) b

  while the energy criterion, Eqs. 38 and 39 render,

3 K2 π K 2 A2 (R)
R = E ∞ . (39) respectively,
4 σ0 8σ02 ȧ
Next, particularize these results for the geometry of ε∞
R = , α0 = constant (44)
ȧ E∞b
a long strip (cf. Fig. 2b and suitably dimensioned in
Fig. 9). and
Denote the strain across the strip by ε∞ . If, as stated
earlier, interest is restricted to times when the crack Qε∞ 2 
moves into the long-time equilibrium stress field, then ε∞
R = , σ0 = constant. (45)
ȧ E∞b

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 117

Fig. 10 Comparison of the

four potential fracture
criteria (see text for detailed
parameter information)

For the numerical evaluation of the relations in Eqs. 42– The result that both the energy and the crack–
45, the creep compliance marked 1 and 5 in Fig. 4 is opening displacement criteria are coincident for σ0 =
used. To keep these computations economical and in constant may be, superficially speaking, surprising. It
view of the intrinsic uncertainty of the experimental is true though, that for rate-insensitive elastic–plastic
data, which is on the order of ±5 %, an error of 0.1 % solids, the Dugdale model for sheet fracture [for R =
in the integration was deemed sufficient for the present 0, A (R) = 1] equates the two criteria for predicting
purpose. Not much more needs to be reported about this initial crack instability if one sets u 0 σ0 =  (Wnuk
integration other than that a routine based on Simpson’s 1969; Wnuk and Knauss 1970). Furthermore, it has
rule was used and that care was exercised in evaluat- already been stated at the end of the previous Section
ing the limits of the products involving the logarithmic that the two criteria are identical if  and σ0 are constant
functions in the functions F (r ) and F  (r ), (/σ0 = const) and if β → 0. The thought is there-
The two criteria Eqs. 42, 43 and Eqs. 44, 45 each fore close that for different values of β the two criteria
involve three undetermined parameters, if R = 1/2 as should also give the same crack-propagation behavior
indicated earlier in this section. For the crack opening in agreement with the stated insensitivity of the results
displacement criterion we lack, at this stage, the values to variations in β in Fig. 10. However, the close agree-
of u0 and either α0 or σ0 , while for the energy criterion ment between the two criteria Eqs. 43 and 45—both
we need to determine  and α0 or σ0 . Since both u 0 and for constant σ0 —is a consequence of the creep prop-
 were assumed to be independent of the crack speed, erties displayed in Fig. 3. Some reflection, too lengthy
they may be evaluated from conditions prevailing as to be detailed here, shows that the two criteria should
ȧ → 0. The remaining parameters are then determined predict, closely, the same crack-propagation behavior
by matching the velocity scale to experimental data, if if the maximum slope of log D (t) versus log t is not
such matching is at all possible. For an initial compar- great16 (about 0.7 in Fig. 3). For a significantly greater
ison, u 0 or  were chosen such that ε∞ = 0.01 for
ȧ → 0. The graphical representation of Eqs. 42–45 16 R. A. Schapery’s developments include the powerlaw approx-
is given in Fig. 10. The crack opening displacement imation for the constitutive behavior. This approximation is valid
criterion for constant α deviates most from the others, if the second derivative of the logarithm of the material function,
primarily because it involves the strain ε∞ to the first e.g., creep compliance, with respect to the logarithm of time
power, while the others demand the square of the strain. is “small” and allows the approximate evaluation of convolu-
tion integrals such as Eq. 24. The reason that the two criteria

118 W. G. Knauss

slope, the criteria should not agree, while for slopes test method, since they result from the prescription of
smaller than or equal to 0.7, they should agree as well the load in the form of displacements (strain) rather than
as for the properties employed here. To check this asser- tractions. In practical terms this correction is, however,
tion, the two criteria Eqs. 43 and 45 were evaluated for small compared to the effect of the shift factor φT .
a standard linear solid having the same short and long A second, brief observation relates to the rate-
time limits as the polyurethane elastomer characterized dependent fracture energy, which plays a prominent
in Fig. 3. The result of this separate calculation was part in the works of Thomas (1958, 1960), Greensmith
a different crack-speed prediction (σ0 and β = α/2 (1964) and M.L. Williams (1965). Let this energy be
were used in both cases) as derived from the two cri- denoted by S (ȧ). For the strip geometry in Fig. 9 this
teria. Even when they were brought to agreement for quantity can be expressed for constant temperature by
ȧ → 0, the predicted velocity differed by approxi- (see Mueller and Knauss 1971b)
mately 25 % over a range of velocities spanning about
seven decades; the energy criterion predicted the slower 4
S (ȧ) = E ∞ ε∞
b (47)
crack propagation. The agreement for the two criteria 3
is thus, in principle, fortuitous and the result of the
particular, if general, material properties. From a prac- Substituting, for example, Eq. 47 into Eq. 44 yields
tical viewpoint, one must bear in mind, however, that
a standard linear solid, for example, is hardly a good 4 8
S (ȧ) =   = as ȧ → 0 (48)
representative for a polymer, and that the polyurethane 3 R αȧ0 3
elastomer employed in this study is much more rep-
resentative of polymeric solids. Equation 45 is, most Thus, the “rate-dependent fracture energy” is essen-
likely, the rule, rather than the exception in the frac- tially the product of the intrinsic fracture energy ,
ture of viscoelastic polymers. Before proceeding to presumably of molecular origin, and a non-dimensional
the exploitation of the laboratory measurements, two function  R (α0 /ȧ)−1 which embodies the rheology
deductions follow from the criteria as stated so far. of the material surrounding the crack tip. This result
If the material is thermorheologically simple, one contradicts the suggestion (Williams 1965)17 that the
sees with the aid of Eq. 30 that a change in temper- rate-dependent fracture energy be the sum of the intrin-
ature affects the time scale through a shift factor φT sic fracture energy (surface energy) and of the viscous
which multiplies the velocity ȧ. Moreover, on the basis contribution. Finally, if Eq. 47 is combined with Eq. 45
of the classical theory of rubber elasticity, the equi- instead of Eq. 44, a less simple relation results, namely
librium modulus E ∞ is proportional to the absolute
temperature T in Eqs. 43 and 45; E ∞ 2 enters the argu-  
ment of ϑ or  through Q (see Eq. 41). If one writes 3 π E ∞ A2 (R) S (ȧ)
S (ȧ)  R = (49)
thus the temperature-dependent equivalent of Eq. 45, 4 8 σ02 ȧ
for example, there results, with T0 as a reference (here
273 K) and with E ∞ at the temperature T In concluding this discussion on the equivalence of the
  crack opening displacement and the energy criteria, it
π bE ∞
2 A2 (R) ε 2
∞ T
2 T0 is emphasized once more, with a view towards Fig. 7,
R = (46) that this equivalence has been shown so far to hold
6σ02 ȧ T02 φT E∞ T b
only if the maximum cohesive stress σ0 is a constant.
The same is not necessarily true if σ0 is a function of
Thus the crack-velocity data need not necessarily time–
the crack-propagation speed; it is obviously not true if
temperature shift according to the shift law for ther-
α = α0 , and independently so of the crack propagation
morheologically simple solids, but may involve further
speed. Henceforth, reference is limited to the energy
temperature corrections. Moreover, these possible cor-
criterion if α0 = constant and not to the crack opening
rections, as evidenced in Eq. 46 are occasioned by the
displacement criterion.
Footnote 16 continued
discussed in this work render nearly the same result is intimately 17 Following Orowan’s suggestion that this be the case for plas-
connected with the justification for the Schapery approximation. tically deforming solids.

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 119

Fig. 11 Crack propagation

data for multiple production
runs, prior to applying the
superposition process

6.2 Deductions from laboratory measurements in Fig. 9, which data is reproduced next in Fig. 11.
Limiting the evaluation to the results for one produc-
Sections 5 and 6 so far presented detailed arguments tion batch18 the time–temperature shifted fracture data
for the plausibility of a crack-propagation model. In is shown in Fig. 12; the relevant shift factors are also
essence, it was queried whether the realistic depen- shown in Fig. 4 together with the data for the basic
dence of crack speed on the loading can be described rheological data.
in terms of such a simple model. So far this model has In Fig. 12 the energy criterion for σ0 = constant
been evaluated only analytically in preparation for the is shown as the solid curve through the measured
answer to this question. In comparing these calcula- data. It is clear, specifically upon considering Fig. 10,
tions to measurements, one searches for two kinds of that the crack-propagation criteria Eqs. 42 and 44 for
information. First, one is interested in whether one or α = constant will fit the data to a distinctly lesser
another of the crack-propagation equations (Eqs. 42– degree than for σ0 = constant. One observes, thus,
45) can be made to agree with physical measurements that the proposed model does not only fit reasonably
by a suitable choice of the unknown parameters. Sec- well to the experimental data, but specifies further that
ond, if a coincidence between the calculations and the maximal cohesive stress at the crack tip remains—
the experimental results can be achieved, it would be at least for this polyurethane elastomer—independent
appealing if the parameters so determined were phys- of the applied load or strain ε∞ and independent of the
ically reasonable. In this way, one might “make a crack-growth speed.
case” for the model, although one would not necessar- Turn next to the evaluation of the parameters σ0 , 
ily prove that the supposed crack-propagation process and u 0 as well as the range of variation for α. To deter-
delineated in Sect. 5 is uniquely true. mine  evaluate Eq. 45 for ȧ → 0, where, on account of
It will be recalled in connection with Fig. 3 that an Fig. 10, ε∞ = 0.01, and by noting that  R (∞) = 1/2
effort was made to assess the influence of material pro- which latter relation follows from the numerical calcu-
duction variability. In the same sense fracture data was
derived from tests employing the specimen geometry 18 For the complete data presentation refer to Knauss (1973b).

120 W. G. Knauss

Fig. 12 Time–Temperature
shifted crack propagation
data derived from one
production run (sheet # 4);
for more details see Knauss

lations since Eq. 32 was not integrated in closed form able. Whether the microstructurally oriented parame-
for ȧ → 0. ters u 0 and α have realistic values is difficult to say
By matching the velocity scale of Fig. 12 to the since they depend strongly on the use of the linearly
velocity scale in Fig. 10. One obtains values for Q from viscoelastic theory. The most pertinent experimental
which one determines σ0 by virtue of Eq, 41. Upon eval- information is the fact that this polyurethane elastomer
uating Eqs. 43 and 31 for ȧ →0 and letting ε∞ = 0.01 breaks with a mirror like fracture surface like inor-
one finds u 0 . Using b = 0.69 inch, E ∞ = 398 psi, ganic glass at any test strain and velocity measured in
ν = 0.5, and R = 0.5, one obtains 19 the experiments. Irregularities of the fracture topology
which may be an indication of how large the cohe-
 = 0.014 lb/in
sive zone is, are therefore less than the wavelength
σ0 = 1.7 − 2.5 104 psi of visible light. For a strain of ε∞ = 0.1, one would
u 0 = 1.0 × 10−6 in (225 Å) obtain a value of α = 600(300) Å, while for the min-
α = 2.5 − 1.3 × 10−4 ε∞
in imum strain of ε∞ = 0.01 where ȧ → 0, this value
would be only 6(3) Å. On the average, this value of
= 6.3 − 3.1 × 104 ε∞
α is acceptable in the light of the upper bound pro-
vided by the smoothness of the crack surface, but for
The values of these parameters invite several com- ȧ → 0, the zone represents clearly molecular rather
ments. In earlier measurements with nominally the than continuum mechanical dimensions. Therefore, in
same material, but with a different pretest history, the examining these small values of α critically we must
intrinsic fracture energy  was found to be of the same not forget that these data (and the value of σ0 ) are the
order of magnitude ( ≈ 0.09 lb/in.) and in reason- result of matching the theoretical velocity scale to the
able agreement with calculations based on the molecu- experimental one, which was in turn assembled by a
lar origin of this quantity (Lake and Thomas 1967). A none-too-accurate time–temperature correspondence.
value of 0.014 lb/in. appears, therefore, fairly accept- More importantly, we recall that we have not accounted
for the nonlinearly viscoelastic response of the highly
19 The range of these values derives from the complete set of deformed material at the crack tip. If the large strains at
measurements represented in Knauss (1973a), for which Fig. 11 the crack tip have the effect of shortening the time scale
is representative.

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 121

of the relaxation spectrum this would possibly lead to Although the formulation of the crack speed prob-
an explanation. This question shall be dealt with in the lem as a function of applied loads provides good agree-
next Section. ment with measurements on polyurethane rubber on
With regard to the crack opening displacement, a the more global scale the exceedingly small, appar-
value of 225 A is not unreasonable in connection with ent size of the cohesive zone certainly deserves more
the just cited values of α. We bear in mind, however, detailed attention and discussion. Although this glaring
that u 0 is, physically speaking, a less meaningful quan- discrepancy has not deterred any one from using the
tity than, for instance, the cohesive stress σ0 or the theory for viscoelastic fracture, it has remained a trou-
disintegration-zone size α. The picture that presents blesome question in the wider applications to polymer
itself of the deformed disintegration zone near the limit fracture. This apparent physical discrepancy had been
ȧ → 0 is thus one of a short zone highly elongated nor- noted in connection with the earliest mechanics based
mal to the crack axis for ε∞ = 0.01, while at higher model for viscoelaslic fracture (Mueller 1968) as well
crack velocities (ε∞ = 0.1), the length of the zone is as in (Mueller and Knauss 1971b) and (Knauss 1970,
about as long as its dimension across the crack axis 1973b). As stated earlier, Schapery was led to the same
(2u 0 ) This calculated shape of the crack-tip zone indi- conclusion inasmuch as he used the same material data
cates large, finite, deformation gradients which vio- underlying these last references. The same dichotomy
late the precepts of linear viscoelasticity theory; obvi- was, however, rediscovered in the 1990s by Gent et al.
ously, this observation cannot be left out of considera- (1994), Gent and Lai (1994), Gent (1996) who reported
tion when one evaluates the overall merit of the crack- this dimension to be on the order of 1 Å or smaller,
propagation model presented here. Again, more will be but for different elastomers than reported here. There
stated about this issue in the next section. appears to have been no successful attempt at resolving
Finally note that to our knowledge there exists no this size question by direct experimental means, yet.
good estimate for the magnitude of σ0 , If the material
were a crystal, one would expect a value on the order
of 10 % of the elastic modulus. The fact that the above 7.1 The potential role of free volume in the present
range of σ0 is between 7 and 10 % of the glassy modulus context
(estimated to be about 2.5 × 105 psi from Fig. 3) may
be significant, but could be equally well fictitious if Before delving into a numerical estimation of the effect
one considers the amorphous molecular structure of the of large stresses on the viscoelastic material character-
material and the large deformations which this structure istics it is useful to analyze a potential reason for why
experiences at the crack tip. the cohesive zone turns out so small when linearly vis-
In concluding this “physical” evaluation of the crack coelastic properties are involved. A small cohesive zone
propagation model we also note that in all the crack has the major effect of inducing large strain gradients,
propagation measurements involving the Solithane 113 and in connection with the rate of crack propagation,
polyurethane the phenomenon of “knotty” or “stick- commensurately high deformation rates at the crack
slip” tearing reported for the work at the Natural Rubber tip. The test/analysis results may thus imply the likely
Producers’ Research Association did not arise.20 scenario that the small zone size is required for a lin-
early viscoelastic medium to compensate for a potential
change in the relaxation spectrum when ultra-high ten-
7 Mechanical and thermal dilatation and the size sile stress levels are involved, in particular for a likely
of the cohesive zone and significant reduction in the time scale of the mate-
rial under these high dilatational stresses.
Let us turn next to address the surprisingly small size It has long been understood that dilatation and pres-
of the cohesive zone. sures influence the time scale of polymer mechanical
response; this has been suggested by Williams et al.
20 Although this phenomenon has been reported repeatedly from (1955) as a result of the thermal dilatation on which the
this organization, where a set of different test configurations were
used over the years, it was not possible to determine whether this
WFL equation is based, by Ferry (1980), by Knauss and
stick-slip phenomenon was ever associated with the “pure shear” Emri (1981, 1987), Losi and Knauss (1992), Knauss
configuration used exclusively in the present context. (2011a, b), (Knauss and Ravichandran 2015), Fillers

122 W. G. Knauss

and Tschoegl (1977), Moonan and Tschoegl (1983, and thermal flow in the crack tip vicinity, because this
1984) and exploited by Knauss and collaborators in raises a question that is certainly self-inviting and has
investigations related to nonlinear viscoelastic behav- been addressed experimentally in connection with frac-
ior via “clock models”. A similar model, derived from ture problems before, though not in connection with
the damage-induced nonlinear behavior of solid rocket strongly viscoelastic materials. Here we connect this
propellants had been proposed by Schapery (1969), topic with the suggestion by Carbone and Persson
as a result of dewetting—induced21 vacuole forma- (2005) that temperatures at the tip of a crack running
tion instead of suggesting the free volume as the possi- in vicsoelastic material (polymer) will reach tempera-
ble physical basis. The important idea is that pressure tures on the order of 1000 ◦ K, though at such tempera-
decreases the free volume while tension enlarges it. tures polymers typically have been chemically decom-
Correspondingly, the mobility of molecule segments is posed. Arguments advanced for the reality of such high
reduced or enhanced so that the intrinsic material time temperatures are offered, on the one hand, in terms of
scale is, respectively, lengthened or shortened. Accord- the appearance of surfaces roughness generated under
ingly, the high stresses in the crack tip vicinity reduce friction, and the smooth appearance of fracture sur-
the viscous component of the material, and the lin- faces generated at relatively high velocities observed
ear representation compensates for this occurrence by as by Tsunoda et al. (2000), similar to the fracture
making the material appear more viscous by selecting surfaces described here in Sect. 9. While one cannot
a small cohesive zone which, in turn, produces (artifi- categorically deny temperature rises at the tips of run-
cially) high local deformation rates. It will be of interest ning cracks in viscoealstic materials—see the para-
to estimate the magnitude of this effect on the size of graph immediately above—there are several reasons
the cohesive zone. that the estimate offered by Carbone and Persson are
In doing so one needs to consider also the effect more than questionable. These authors employ the vis-
which local energy dissipation has on raising the tem- coelastic material description of a Kelvin solid for an
perature in this region. During the 1950s and 1960s we initial estimate, while admitting that this is too simple
have worried about temperature rise as a result of large a material representation to be realistic, at best. What is
stains and have attempted to asses this via laboratory more important, however, is that a linear material repre-
measurements. In those situation the temperature rise sentation in the vicinity of the highly strained crack tip
was usually rather limited, on the order of a few degrees region is not admissible, in particular not for a material
C when the deformation rates were in the range of tens as that employed in Tsunoda et al. (2000) to which this
of percent per second. Figure 11 shows that most of the high-temperature suggestion relates. Measurements of
crack propagation data result from tip velocities of less material (vibrational) damping under slowly increas-
than 1 inch/min, certainly not categorizable as “fast”. ing strain conducted many years ago in our laborato-
Moreover, if “faster” crack growth is encountered such ries demonstrated that with increasing strain the damp-
modest temperature rises would be offset by the adia- ing characteristics dropped off roughly in proportion
batic cooling in the crack-tip region. We thus opt, for to the slope of the stress–strain description, when the
now, to circumvent the thermal issue for the physical molecular alignment region of the large-deformation
data presented here and limit ourselves to the mechani- stress–strain curve was reached damping was rather
cal dilatation source (see also the discussion of thermal minimal, because segmental mobility relative to each
effects in the following section). other was seriously impeded by the molecular orien-
tation. The argument that a smooth fracture surface is
indicative of rubber-melting resulting from high tem-
7.2 The question of temperature increases at crack peratures contradicts the cross-linked nature of rubbers.
tips in dissipative materials First, all the measurements on crack propagation con-
ducted with Solithane 113 exhibited glass-like fracture
It is, nevertheless, of considerable interest in this con- surfaces except for small disturbances of the smooth-
nection to address the question of energy dissipation ness by tiny inclusions and/or very small bubbles orig-
21 Dewetting refers to the mechanical separation of the elas-
inating from the casting process (see the discussion in
tomeric binder from the hard oxidizer particles in solid propel- Sect. 6.2 following the evaluation of the fracture para-
lants. meters). These small disturbances should have disap-

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 123

peared if “melting” of a crosslinked polymer were a about half of that value for Titanium. Such temperatures
possibility at all. Also the argument that brittle solids cannot even be expected to be achieved in a polymer, (a)
break with a rough surface as support for the idea that because the energy expenditure for these metals to fail
smooth fracture surfaces must have a thermal com- are larger by orders of magnitude than polymers would
ponent is clearly contradicted by the glassy smooth admit, and (b) because at least most of the latter, at best,
fracture surfaces produced in silicate glasses, the typ- begin to disintegrate chemically at such temperatures.
ical “brittle” fracture solid. “Molten rubber” has been
experienced in the writer’s career only on occasions
when extensively rubbed surfaces, such as on automo- 7.3 An estimate of a bound on the cohesive zone size
bile tires in the process of failure due to sliding sur-
faces as occur in connection with belt-body separations, While it is not likely that one is able to compute a
and when enough time and continuous working of the precise measure of the true size of the cohesive zone
degraded product is available to change the chemical without knowing the nonlinearly viscoelastic proper-
structure of the network in such a process. ties of the polymer well, one can expect to provide the
One additional segment of information is worth con- rational argument that neglecting the effect of dilatation
sidering at this point, namely the result of measure- on the relaxation spectrum of the polymer accounts for
ments of temperature changes in Solithane 113 elas- its inordinately small value presented in the past. One
tomer under high rates of uniaxial compression (103 – reason for the remaining lack of precision is that the
104 per second). These studies were conducted as part dilatation varies spatially in the crack tip region and
of research into the fracture mitigating role of elas- only a numerical analysis would render a close esti-
tomers in explosive environments. The uniaxial com- mate in the manner that Moran and Knauss (1992) and
pression ratio was typically 50 % and was generated Knauss and Losi (1993)22 have pursued analytically,
with the aid of a Hopkinson pressure bar. Both high also for a similar material. The limitations underlying
speed photography and thermal tracking via thermo- the current estimate are delineated further below.
couples provided a maximum temperature increase of Let us assume, then, that the timescale of the vis-
40 ◦ K for numerous tests, substantially less that the coelastic material is governed by a multiplicative fac-
1000 ◦ K differential suggested by Carbone and Pers- tor p that depends on the magnitude of σ0 . In view
son (2005), though a 40 ◦ K temperature rise by itself of Eqs. 16, 41 and 42, Eq. 46 may be written as [for
would materially affect the crack propagation rate sig- A (R) = 1]
nificantly simply on the basis of the time–temperature α 
superposition principle. 
 p (σ0 ) = (50)
Finally, it is well to observe that measurements on ȧ E∞b
both silicate glasses and on high strength steel have
where, for ease of reference, we restate the value of αas
been performed in which the values suggested by Car-
bone and Persson might have been reached in a silicate  2
πb E ∞ ε∞
glass. Weichert and Schönert (1973, 1978) performed α= (51)
measurements related to crack tip temperatures. How- 6 σ0
ever, the analytical evaluation of the data hinged on
with σ0 as the previously stated cohesive stress deter-
the assumed spatial distribution such that if the tem-
mined experimentally (by virtue of the fact that this
perature rise was associated with a size domain of
represents the best and closest fit to the experimen-
nearly atomic dimensions (30 Å), this very high ther-
tal data) to be 138 MPa (2 × 104 psi), on average,
mal energy concentration yielded temperatures some-
while the rate-independent fracture energy  is found
what above 1000 ◦ K, while a ten times larger zone size
from the long-term rubbery domain to equal 175 N/m
rendered temperature increases of only 200 ◦ K; How-
(0.014 lb/in.) and the modulus as E ∞ = 2.74 MPa
ever, a definitive zone size could not be established.
(398 psi). Note that while the maximum tensile stress at
More recent measurements on thermal dissipation in
high strength steel by Zehnder and Rosakis (1991) 22 Contains results for how the nonlinear material characteriza-
and Mason and Rosakis (1993) yielded temperature tion changes the size of the cohesive zone as a function of the
changes of the crack tip material by about 450 ◦ K, with crack velocity.

124 W. G. Knauss

the cohesive zone is σ0 over the length α of (half of) the lent temperature allows then an estimate via Fig. 4 of
cohesive zone, the stresses in the vicinity are typically how much of the time temperature shifting results from
smaller, but it is not known and difficult to estimate over the mechanical component of the dilatation. This “how
how much of a region sufficiently high stresses domi- much-value” is in the form of the multiplicative factor
nate to affect the relaxation time scale of the material. p (σ0 ) in the argument of the function  in Equation 50.
Moreover, the crack-parallel stress at the cohesive zone This equivalent temperature change turns out to range
should also be on the order of σ0 , and because the sheet between 25 and 40 ◦ C, and because of Eq. 50 one finds
thickness is very much larger than the size of the cohe-
sive zone, there may be a significant three-dimensional α ≈ 4.7ε∞
p(σ0 ) microns, along with
component to the dilatational stress around the crack
tip. At most one would expect, therefore, that the max- 700 < p(σ0 ) < 104 (53)
imal dilatational component would be on the order of
σ0 ; however, because the stresses drops quickly away Bearing in mind from Fig. 11 or 12 that the range for
from the cohesive zone but such that strain rates are the experimentally applied strain is 0.01 < ε∞ < 0.25
still sufficiently high to invoke viscoelastic response of one finds the range extremes for α as 4 < α < 3000μ.
the rubber. While this is a rather large range it clearly removes con-
To estimate the dilation (Knauss 2011a) one needs siderations from molecular dimensions into the realm
to know the bulk modulus of the material. Because of continuum mechanics. Moreover, consideration of
bulk modulus data are very difficult to obtain it was the temperature rise at the crack tip, which had been
initially assumed (Knauss 2003) that the bulk mod- excluded here, would further increase this value.
ulus for the Polyurethane was the same as that for There is, however, a further upper constraint on this
PMMA, because polymers possess moduli that are range, which arises from the observation that fracture in
close to each other rather than widely different. How- this polyurethane occurred with a mirror-like surface,
ever, more recent direct measurements for a polyurea especially at the low strain levels (slow crack propa-
(Chakkarapani et al. 2006), similar in consistency and gation rates), which speaks to the probability that the
glass transition behavior to the polyurethane used in surface roughness is measured in microns or less, and
(Knauss 2003), which provided a lower bulk modulus, that, therefore, the cohesive zone size should also be at
of k = 2.1 GPa, instead of k = 2.4 GPa for PMMA. most in that range. The “roughness” or unevenness at
This property is still assumed to be essentially a con- the higher strains clearly arise from inclusions or bub-
stant rather than a function of time or deformation rate. bles that derived from the casting process. This obser-
We next draw on the same principle for estimat- vation in the low speed range indicates also that frac-
ing the dilatational effect on the material time scale ture occurs very close to the crack-tip, and that only
as delineated in previous publications (Fillers and at larger strains—accompanying higher velocities—do
Tschoegl 1977; Knauss and Emri 1981, 1987; Moonan multiple fracture sites arise, for which a dimension for
and Tschoegl 1983, 1984; Knauss 2011a, b; Knauss a (modeled) single cohesive zone is no longer precisely
and Ravichandran 2015, namely that thermally and viable. One is thus lead to the conclusion that for the
mechanically induced dilations have similar effect on linearly viscoelastic model based on a single cohesive
the intrinsic material time scale. Thus, if γ is the lin- zone the zone size should be on the order of at most
ear thermal expansion for the material and Teq an a few microns, but not on the order of Angstroms. It
“equivalent” temperature (Knauss 2011a, b), equating appears thus clear that the inclusion of the dilatational
thermal and mechanical dilation renders influence on the viscoelastic spectrum of relaxation
times improves the estimation of the size scale of the
P cohesive zone to a realm which makes the whole theory
3γ T = − (52)
k of viscoelastic fracture appear more reasonable. More-
over, the current estimation is so general because of its
which relates the dilatational stress “P” to a temper- relatively wide bounds, that the same argumentation is
ature change Teq which “equivalently” accounts for likely to apply to other materials, including those of the
changing the time scale of the material at the crack- type considered by Gent (1996), Gent and Lai (1994)
tip resulting from the high stresses there. That equiva- and Gent et al. (1994).

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 125

Fig. 13 Strip configuration

for crack speed tests of
swollen Solithane 113
elastomer while submerged
in toluene

7.4 Swelling induced dilatation 3200 frames/s. One notes that the lowest values of the
strain are about at 2 %, while the steady state lower
To further explore the role of free volume dilatation on boundary for the unswollen state occurred for 1 %.
the speed of crack propagation, and especially on the Against expectations, that low range was not accessible
value of the equilibrium fracture energy, studies were with the high recording rate of the high speed camera
carried out in the mid-1970s on the fracture behavior of because the range of velocities involved in these tests
Solithane 113 swollen in Toluene, which produced an was simply too large for this camera.
equilibrium volumetric swelling ratio of 2.6. The idea The data can be shifted into a master curve, however
was that extensive swelling would reduce the viscous the resulting shift data does not follow the WLF format
interaction of chain segments extensively and thus vir- for the unswollen material. The reason is, most likely,
tually eliminate time dependent effects, leaving only that the polymer chain interaction associated with the
the elastic characteristics of the crosslinked network. WLF reduction scheme has been replaced mostly by
Extensive details may be found in Knauss and Mueller the viscosity alteration of the Toluene, which changes
(1967) and Mueller and Knauss (1971a). While the full its viscosity by a factor of almost two in the 42 ◦ C tem-
range of investigations may be gathered from these ref- perature range for these tests. Finally, it is of interest to
erences it suffices to delineate here that particular frac- note that the fracture surfaces maintained their mirror-
ture behavior. Figure 13 depicts the geometry used as like smooth surfaces for all tests on swollen Solithane
crack propagation specimens while submerged in the as for the non-swollen state.
equilibrium-swollen state. Similar results for swollen SBR rubber have been
Because the intrinsic viscosity of the rubber had reported more recently by Tsunoda et al. (2000), though
been largely removed by virtue of the large swelling the swelling ratio for those tests was more moderate.
ratio, the fracture process proceeded very fast, on the Accordingly, the difference in velocities achieved are
order of 104 times faster than in the unswollen state. less pronounced.
The material became strain-sensitive to the onset of
crack propagation in the swollen state in that this rapid
crack growth occurred after a period of slower crack 7.5 The effect of sheet thickness
initiation. Locating the crack tip required a photoelas-
tic set-up, and a single fringe was sufficient to achieve So far crack propagation has been considered in a two-
this goal. The initiation phase was difficult to ascer- dimensional deformation state without specific refer-
tain and thus a continuous straining (constant strain ence to the truly three-dimensional state in the crack tip
rate) was employed to follow the propagation progress. vicinity—except for the brief comment in this regard
Figure 14 shows the result for the virtually constant, in Sect. 7.3. It is well understood in sheet metal fail-
terminal crack speeds, which were obtain with the ure that the toughness (resistance to crack growth) is
aid of a Magnifax high-speed photographic camera at reduced as one passes from thin to thick sheet stock.

126 W. G. Knauss

Fig. 14 Crack propagation

speeds in Solithane 113
swollen to equilibrium in
Toluene, at three different

The reason behind this behavior is the change in the decreasing size of the cohesive zone (see Sect. 9). The
three-dimensional stress field and the attendant influ- question arises thus as to why this difference between
ence of the plastic deformation in that region, so that the metal and elastomer fracture occurs. The answer lies,
fracture energy is typically considered to be a function most likely, in the local three-dimensional deformation
of the plate thickness. Thick plates, allowing a clos- mode at the crack tip.
est approach to conditions of plain strain at the crack In metal fracture the localization of the plastic defor-
front, lead to the lowest resistance to crack growth. In mation is restricted to the zone near the plate sur-
the present context of viscosity-, rather than plasticity- faces, so that after some minimum plate thickness has
dominated energy losses the inverse seems to hold. been reached, the plastic zone size does not increase
Figure 15 shows crack propagation records under markedly with plate thickness. In contrast, the elas-
steady crack growth conditions (strip geometry) for tomer fracture entails no (obvious) localization phe-
specimens of the same polyurethane material possess- nomenon,23 so that, the size limitation, discussed in
ing three different sheet thicknesses. The three solid Sect. 8 below notwithstanding, the zone size in which
lines represent the same function, but shifted along the dissipation really occurs increases with the plate thick-
log-velocity axis. It is clear that there exists a systematic ness, at least within the range of the specimen thickness
variation in the crack propagation speed, the thickest included here. This observation is an alert that the dom-
specimen giving rise to the slowest propagation rates. inant zone size at the crack tip is not necessarily the very
Thus the thicker specimens offer the greater resistance small (and theoretically deduced) cohesive zone size,
to crack propagation, in contrast to the elastic–plastic but a larger zone that surrounds the crack tip within
counterpart for metal fracture. The maximum thickness which the rate controlling dissipation occurs. These
ratio is eight, and the corresponding difference in prop- thoughts may be also appropriate in connection with
agation speeds is about 10 (one decade). Tsunoda et al. the repeated observations below that the application
(2000) have also measured the effect of sheet thickness of the steady state solution is questionable under non-
on the tear energy of carbon reinforced SBR elastomers steady or transient growth conditions, though it should
and found a complementary result for an even larger be applicable if the only viscoelastically required size
range of thicknesses (26:1 instead of 8:1 here). In this parameter “α” were indeed as small as the comparison
case the differences were reserved for the slower prop- of the theory with experiments requires.
agating speeds with no apparent thickness effect at the
higher velocities when the crack propagated under a 23 Possible strain crystallization effects are excluded here.

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 127

Fig. 15 Temperature-
reduced crack propagation
data in a strip test
configuration for three
different specimen
thicknesses. The maximum
difference amounts to a
factor of ten in crack
propagation speed

8 Non-steady crack growth detailed history of load application intertwined with the
effects of the changing geometry, including the crack
The presentation to this point has concentrated on the size.
steady propagation of a crack, i.e. a crack that has been The previous results hinged on the evaluation of the
traveling through a medium at long-time equilibrium displacement integral (30) which could be readily eval-
and a crack-tip history that did not change with time. uated, albeit numerically for the case of steady condi-
Realistic fracture problems require, however, that one tions (K = consant). This condition cannot be met for
understand crack propagation under possibly time-wise the general case. If the stress intensity factor varies in a
widely varying (far-field) loading conditions. Again, known manner with time it must and can be included in
the above mentioned internet search for advances in this the convolution integral. On the other hand, the crack
context have not turned up any developments devoted speed ȧ varies with time; and its history and relation to
to this topic. Rather, whenever advances in understand- the stress intensity factor are not (necessarily) known.
ing viscoelastic fracture are mentioned the inference is Moreover, if the stress intensity factor depends on the
made in terms of steady state situations. It would seem crack size it is also not known. In fact, it is the object of
important, therefore, to recount at this point what is the endeavor to determine the crack growth rate. Thus,
known in this regard, particularly in view of the fact the integral (30) cannot be evaluated in general and
that viscoelastic responses are synonymous with his- a more general fracture criterion cannot be deduced,
tory effects. The further emphasis of the discussion is except possibly through the formulation of some not-
thus on how a varying load and the current as well as so-trivial integral equation. One is then confronted with
past size(s) of a crack affect its further propagation rate. solving an integral equation numerically.
Two important circumstances which occur very One may examine instead first under what condi-
often in practical situations are not necessarily covered tions the theory for a steadily propagating crack applies
by the above findings: The first question that arises is, to to situations involving transient loads and crack tip
what extent the results for steady state situations speak motion. To this end let σ0 remain constant in agree-
to the processes associated with the initial history or ment with the physically supported result above. Then
start-up transient for crack propagation to occur. The α changes with time according to Eqs. 16 or 17 if K
second is then concerned with the description of how is a function of time, inasmuch as the stress balance at
the transient history of crack growth is governed by the the crack tip should be independent of the viscoelas-

128 W. G. Knauss

tic properties. The conditions under which the steady 8.1 Initial crack propagation (crack initiation)
state solution applies to the transient situation can be
deduced (Knauss 1976, 2003). This deduction hinges Before passing to an experimental examination involv-
on the comparison of the term in, say, equation (30), ing non-steady situations it is germane to address the
which determines the influence of the stress intensity problem of “crack initiation”. The sequel does not deal
factor and the contribution derived from a term that with the generation of a (potentially small) new crack
is governed by the rate of change of that quantity. that did not exist previously in an apparent continuum.
Rather than re-deriving that result here, it is stated in the In the present context the terminology “initial crack
following form, namely that the steady state solution propagation” (sometimes referred to as crack initia-
should apply as long as during the propagation history tion) implies the pre-existence of an identifiable crack,
the constraint which begins to propagate as the result of some arbi-
trary history of external loading applied to the cracked
structure. Of interest is then the time elapsed between
K̇ (t) ȧ (t)

(54) the start of the load history (incubation time) and the
K (t) 2α (t) “instant” of first propagation. From an experimental
point of view it may be extremely difficult to ascer-
holds. Apart from the factor 1/2 this formal result tain such an “instant of first propagation” because that
merely represents the heuristically clear statement that distinction typically hinges on the spatial and temporal
differences between a steady state solution and a tran- resolution capability of the available equipment.
sient one arises only if significant24 speed changes To illustrate this point—which will be appreci-
occur during the time interval in which the crack passes ated more fully in connection with the subsequent
through the cohesive zone: The right hand side of the discussions—a load increasing monotonically with
inequality states that the distance traveled by the crack time may generate crack propagation at some time after
tip must be much larger than the cohesive zone size dur- loading has started. It is apparent from the results on
ing the time when the stress intensity factor changes by steady crack growth that the crack will start to prop-
an incremental amount. The relation is identically sat- agate first very slowly. If its speed is too slow to be
isfied for steady state propagation. registered by the observation tools, any crack motion
This relation has been used implicitly or uncon- will only become apparent once the crack has propa-
sciously by several researchers addressing viscoelastic gated for some (unknown) time, so that the real time of
fracture problems, including the writer. However, cau- the start of crack motion cannot be ascertained defini-
tion is in order on two counts: First, it has been pointed tively. Instead, it is the (incidental) observation tool or
out in Sects. 6.2 and 7 that the surprisingly small size method that defines the time of start of crack motion,
of the cohesive zone may be an artifact of the poorly rather than the physical phenomenon. Consequently,
understood nonlinearly viscoelastic behavior of poly- any measurements claiming to record “initiation times”
mers (elastomers). Estimates based on an inequality are typically of times when a crack has attained a crack
like (54) and incorporating an extremely small cohe- speed that can be recorded with the available equipment
sive zone size would justify the application of steady (most often the unaided eye).
state fracture results to non-steady situations all too eas- In spite of such limitations it is important to assess
ily, though possibly inappropriately so. In fact, most the order of magnitude of crack initiation times. If such
load histories encountered in the typical engineering an estimate yields times that are very short compared to
environment would fall into that category. In view of the total fracture time, i.e., when a crack has grown to
the fact that the size of the cohesive zone is not really such large dimensions that it propagates very rapidly
certain it is appropriate that one examine limitations of (“catastrophically”) it may be possible to neglect the
the application of the steady state solution for the crack initiation history relative to the propagation phase. To
propagation problem to non-steady situations through make matters tractable, we limit considerations to a step
experimental means. function increase in the stress intensity factor. There are
at least two estimates that are reasonable to perform:
One is based on achieving a crack tip opening displace-
24 Admittedly, the interpretation of “significant” is rather open. ment commensurate with that required for steady state

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 129

propagation, and the second on the idea that crack prop- large compared to the cohesive zone size, then the ini-
agation has occurred when a crack has propagated the tiation phase seems likely to be unimportant.
length of the cohesive zone (Knauss 1976). In view of
the results for steady crack propagation for which both
the displacement and the energy balance criteria gave 8.2 Additional experimental information
equally satisfactory results, we consider this only under
the assumption of a constant cohesive stress σ0 . The discussion of fracture under transient load condi-
Assessing first the consequence of a crack tip open- tions has involved, so far, no experimental data aimed at
ing displacement criterion one has that a step impo- examining the corroboration of the analytical modeling
sition of a stress intensity factor renders the opening with crack propagation behavior under specific condi-
displacement, subject to u (0, 0, ȧ) = u 0 = constant tions. In an effort to extend this understanding to more
as given in Eq. 28 or 30 with both ȧ and X equal to general situations it is essential to evaluate crack prop-
zero so that the crack tip opening displacement at the agation behavior under less restrictive test conditions.
time of implicitly given crack initiation ti is Here, this is done not so much for providing quantitative
data, but with intention to afford the reader a glimpse of

3K α the breadth of time dependent failure behavior of vis-
uy = √ F0 D (ti ) (55)
2π coelastic materials that sets them apart from our normal
understanding of fracture derived from rate-insensitive
which is the same as the elastic solution except that solids.
the elastic compliance (reciprocal of Young’s modulus The results presented so far have tended to sup-
and Poisson’s ratio equal to 1/2) is replaced by the creep port the proposition that the steady state treatment
compliance. Incorporation of the stress finiteness con- is applicable instantaneously in many situations, as
dition (16) results in (A = A (R) as defined in Eq. 18) long as the condition (54) is satisfied. Many presen-
tations, including those by the author, have built on
3F0 A 2 that assumption, thus leaving the feeling that “at least
u y C O D = u 0 = K D (ti ) (56)
4σ0 linearly viscoelastic fracture is “in good shape”. Under
The alternative estimate (Knauss 1976) is afforded by these circumstances it seems prudent to include a series
the argument that the time required to establish a cohe- of experimental results that give pause for thought,
sive zone during steady crack propagation should be while simultaneously allowing an evaluation of how
about the same as that required to establish that zone accurate the current status of prediction is if steady
during initial loading and before propagation.25 If one growth rate behavior is applied under transient condi-
lets that time be the interval during which a crack prop- tions. We start with an analogue of what is often referred
agates the length of the cohesive zone one estimates to in structural engineering circles as “static fatigue”.
from Eq. (34), with ϑ (·, 0) approximated by D (·), and
α = αo = constant that for u y = u 0
8.3 Time-to-failure under constant load (static
3 2 fatigue)
K AF0 D (ti ) = σ0 u 0 (57)
Time dependent failure is often studied in the labora-
This is identical with the first estimate. tory via tension tests under different but time-invariant
Now recall that the size of the cohesive zone as loads, with the interest on the time passed between ini-
derived from matching the theoretical developments tial loading and final failure/rupture. We consider this
to experimental data, is very small indeed, even if the test in the form of a viscoelastic sheet containing an ini-
nonlinear viscoelastic response is considered in its size tial crack, where the sheet represents the macroscopic
assessment (see Sect. 7.3). Thus, if one is concerned specimen and the predetermined crack an invariably
with the growth of a crack for which the extension is existing initial flaw. For the moment we presume that
this flaw is always of the same size; discussion of its sta-
25 See also (Schapery 1975a, b, c, II); there the same argument tistical variability is reserved for later in this chapter.
is implied if not stated. It is of interest to determine the growth of a crack—

130 W. G. Knauss

the energy-based crack propagation model employing

a constant cohesive zone size, rather than the constant
cohesive stress; moreover, while the same material is
nominally involved here as for the results delineated in
Figs. 3, 4 and Figs. 10, 11, 12 the detailed production
process for these solids had evolved since the data in
Figs. 16 and 17 were acquired. However for the data in
Fig. 17 at least the long-term modulus was determined
for each individual test specimen. On the other hand,
if one applies the theory involving the use of the con-
stant cohesive stress (Knauss 1973b) along with the full
modulus function as appropriate for Fig. 12, the dashed
line results.26

Fig. 16 Growth history of a crack centrally located in a vis-

coelastic sheet under constant tension load (see insert in Fig. 17) 8.4 Rapid crack propagation under “step loading”

Although no direct analytical development comple-

using the steady state crack propagation equation—for
ments the immediately following experimental work,
a centrally cracked sheet.
it seems appropriate for reasons of completeness to
It can be easily shown that the criterion (54) for the
include the crack propagation behavior in a strip
applicability of the steady state results to this config-
strained so rapidly (and at an appropriate temperature)
uration and loading is always satisfied as long√ as the that the stress fields throughout the specimen and at
stress intensity factor is given by K (t) = σ∞ π · a(t)
the propagating crack tip experience relaxation. Based
for the average stress σ∞ so that
on the simple idea that the magnitude of the crack tip
stresses determines the crack propagation rate should
K̇ ȧ (t) then result in a decreasing rate of crack growth as the
= (58)
K 2a (t) relaxation process proceeds. This simple observation
seems indeed confirmed experimentally. Straining a
which clearly satisfies (54) as long as α(t)
a(t). strip specimen (c.f. Fig. 9) by means of a pressur-
Figure 16 compares the computed growth history ized gas-hydraulic system allows rapid loading with
with an experimentally determined crack length his- rise times on the order of 10 milliseconds. Effecting
tory. It is clear that at some time the growth accelerates such loading at 5 ◦ C places the deformation history into
tremendously, which time may be used as a “failure- the transition range of the relaxation modulus or com-
time” of the sheet specimen. If one repeats this kind of pliance as indicated in Fig. 3; it is then clear that the
computation and measurement for the same geometry ensuing crack propagation behavior occurs during the
but with different far-field stress amplitudes one obtains relaxation phase of the specimen.
the corresponding failure times shown in Fig. 17. Note The corresponding crack propagation rates are
that although the detailed, computed growth curve in depicted in Fig. 18 for two (time-invariant) strain val-
Fig. 16 does not follow the data precisely, though rea- ues. As expected, the propagation rate decreases on
sonably closely, the over all failure behavior, illus- average as relaxation progresses with time. However,
trated in Fig. 17, is quite acceptable. Although discus- this decrease in crack speed is clearly not smoothly
sions for possible reasons of the observed discrepancies uniform or necessarily monotonic, but associated with
can, most likely, be traced to the uncertainty revolving considerable, unsteady variations around a decreasing
around the size of the cohesive zone; further discus- mean. This unsteady behavior is, most likely, the result
sion on this point would be too extensive to fit into the of the simultaneous interaction of the global relaxation
review character of this presentation.
It is appropriate, however, to point out that the result 26 Note that this latter trace is essentially the same as that fitted
represented by the solid line in Fig. 17 is based on to the same data by Schapery (1975c).

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 131

Fig. 17 Static fatigue of a

(sheet) specimen under
constant tension. The
parameters σ f represents
the far-field stress and σg∞
the elastic “Griffith stress”
based on the long-term
elastic modulus (from
Knauss 1970). For
identification of the solid
and dashed lines see the
following text

Fig. 18 Crack propagation

in a strip geometry of
Solithane 113 at 5 ◦ C,
following a rapid step
application of the strain

and the changes in the stress field as the crack propa- the two traces the slightly higher strain gives rise to
gates in spurts, giving rise to locally rapid unloading slower propagation rates, which is clearly in contrast
and associated viscoelastic effects on the advancing to the (steady–state) theory outlined above if not on the
crack tip stress field. To what extent this instability basis of common sense. In this regard one notes that
phenomenon is associated with the evolution history this record may be another demonstration of unstable
of the cohesive zone during unstable crack growth is crack growth: During the initial portion of the growth
not clear. Additional attention will be devoted to this history, crack propagation was so rapid that it could
topic in Sect. 9. not be recorded with the instrumentation used; because
The two propagation histories shown are for differ- of this rapidity, a large unloading signal was quickly
ent strain amplitudes. It may appear surprising that of transmitted to the specimen and resulted in subse-

132 W. G. Knauss

Fig. 19 Crack propagation

under constant strain (left
data set) and constant strain
rate (right data set). Curves
represent data fits without
direct theory implications

quently slower crack propagation, possibly influenced Figure 19 shows27 results of two sets of measure-
by the crack reaching the edge of the specimen, where ments: In the left part of the figure the results of
the crack tip conditions are no longer independent of crack growth under time-invariant strain prescription
the crack tip position. In concluding this brief section is shown for a range of temperatures. In the right part
it is thus worthwhile to remember that complicated of that figure the results of the constant-strain-rate load
failure histories can result when general time depen- histories are given. Because the range of velocities in
dent stress fields interact with the history of unload- these tests were indeed very large the choice was made
ing or loading as a result of a rapidly advancing crack to record the crack growth history cinematographically,
tip. which emphasized the higher velocity range compared
to that recorded for the constant-strain data. Two obser-
vations28 are apparent.
One first notes that comparable strain amplitudes
8.5 Crack growth under constant strain rate
give rise to velocities that are higher under constant-
rate conditions than for constant strain (considering the
A standard test in engineering circles employs con-
comparison for data at identical temperatures). While
stant deformation rates imposed on uniaxial test spec-
one might argue that the constant-strain-rate data repre-
imens in typical test machines. Because the growth of
sent a natural extension of the steady crack growth data,
a crack in a “side-cracked” tensile specimen depends
it is also clear that the slopes of the second data set is not
on both the time dependent load or strain and on the
consistent with those for the steady crack-growth rates:
changing crack geometry, it is again prudent to employ
All appearances of the latter indicate that the higher
the strip geometry (Fig. 9), thus reducing a possi-
strains produce higher velocities with an approach to an
bly influential parameter; this will be considered for
upper asymptote. Thus all higher constant-strain results
constant strain conditions (steady crack growth rate)
indicate decreasing slopes with higher velocities, but
and for increasing the strain at a constant rate so that
the constant-strain-rate data does not fit into this pat-
the stresses and strains in the test configuration vary
in a predictable manner. If the steady state solution
were to apply, the constant strain rate data should be 27 These results were obtained with the same polyurethane mate-
identical to those obtained under constant strains or rial characterized in Figs. 14, 15 and 16.
should at least complement those data in a consistent 28 A third observation might be that these test results parallel
manner. those for the swollen material.

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 133

For these tests it had been assumed that the stresses

(stress intensity factor) for the constant-strain-rate tests
were determined by the long-term or rubbery behavior
of the material. The question arises thus whether the
differences may be the result of residual viscoelastic
effects on the stresses in the crack tip region, so that
“elastic” conditions do not prevail even approximately.
Yet, for all the temperatures employed and the time
frames involved in the tests the material should be con-
sidered to have been globally well within the rubbery
state. What has not been taken into account specifically,
however, is whether the magnification of the local strain
rates at the crack tip can have a significant influence. To
assess this possibility requires the solution of a crack
propagating with arbitrary velocity into a continuously
changing stress field, a situation that with computer
capabilities of the time when these measurements were
made, posed a non-trivial problem. The same question
arises in connection with the next topic (fatigue), and
must thus remain an open question at this time and be
left to future investigations. Fig. 20 Crack propagation history in a strip geometry under
cyclic loading at a temperature of 38 ◦ C above the glass transi-
tion. The solid curve represents the velocity estimate based on
8.6 Crack growth under cyclic deformations (fatigue) instantaneous strain value. Solithane 133 elastomer (50/50)

Further examination of the proposition whether steady

state results apply under the conditions prescribed by
Eq. 54 may be effected via cyclically variable load towards a later comparison, note that the ordinate rep-
histories, while still adhering first to the simple strip resents incremental crack growth and not velocity. Note
geometry so as to minimize the time dependence intro- also, that these tests were conducted at 30 ◦ C (58 ◦ C
duced by a changing stress field as a result of the chang- above Tg ) and in a time frame measured in seconds;
ing crack size. Two figures illustrate the improbability the globally viscoelastic behavior should thus fall well
that one may adhere strictly to the idea that the steady- within the rubbery domain, so that normally, the load-
state solution applies instantaneously. First, if the latter ing history should not give rise to significant if any
idea were to hold, one should observe that in cyclical global viscoelastic effects.
strain history any crack propagation history should be Two features are apparent: One, the average exten-
in phase with the strain history. That is clearly not the sion rate decreases with time for both strain histories,
case as demonstrated in Fig. 20. In fact, at 58 ◦ C above which would be in keeping with the decay of global (or
the glass transition there exist notable phase shifts in local) stress transients resulting from a sin (t)-strain
the crack propagation data relative to the strain history. history that starts at time zero. Second, and this fea-
In this case the one-cycle-per-second responds most ture restates the findings in Fig. 20, the frequency has
closely to the instantaneous estimate. But, apart from a strong effect on the crack propagation rate: Clearly
that observation, the higher frequencies lead consis- a 40 % increase in the frequency reduces the average
tently to systematic and distinct decreases in propaga- crack speed by about a factor of two, other test parame-
tion rates ters remaining the same. This set of data offers thus the
A complementary set of data, following the evolu- strongest cautionary note that the use of the steady state
tion of the crack propagation under start-up of cyclic solution for transient crack propagation behavior must
deformation is given in Fig. 21, where zero-time cor- be employed with caution or, as an estimation tool, be
responds to the beginning of first loading. With a view recognized as an approximation.

134 W. G. Knauss

Fig. 22 Cyclic (average) crack growth da/dN as a function of

stress intensity and frequency in a strip geometry at 20 ◦ C. Sheet
thickness = 2.5 mm. Solithane 113 elastomer (50/50)

Fig. 21 Start-up crack extension in a strip geometry as a function

of time for two frequencies. Solithane 113 elastomer (50/50);
sheet thickness 0.03 in. strated in the following set of data, which uses the
same material underlying the above strain cycle stud-
ies, but employs a side-notched sheet geometry, for
In this context it may be illuminating to recall that which the dimensions have been chosen so as to min-
Schapery (1962) had proposed an approximate solu- imize changes of the stress intensity factor with crack
tion method for viscoelastic boundary value problems growth (Chang 1983). In this case measurements were
called the “quasi-elastic method”. This method applies recorded after the initial transients had presumably died
to situations that are rather akin to step-type loadings, out.
but is distinctly not applicable for problems driven by The data in Fig. 22 was acquired in a strip geometry
cyclical loads (see Knauss 2003, p. 405) for more expla- after the start-up transients had, apparently subsided,
nation). It is likely that the differences one experiences and demonstrates again the distinct effect which fre-
here in connection with crack propagation under cyclic quency has on the growth-rate per cycle, da/dN. How-
loading deviates also considerably from that associated ever, when one employs the average time-rate of crack
with “simpler” boundary loads such as step loading. propagation da/dt in place of the cycle-number rate (dt
These observations of a somewhat complicated ∼ time per cycle), as in Fig. 23, the data collapse into
crack propagation response to cyclical loading has an an almost single trace, though there is a residue of sys-
important corollary: In the context of metal fatigue— tematic differences. This residue may be due to the fact
which is usually rather insensitive to or independent that at the higher cycling rates the heat generated in the
of rate-of-deformations—crack growth rates are typi- highly stressed material at the crack tip has less time to
cally rendered as a function of the number of cycles. dissipate and thus thermorheological effects play a role;
In fact, the use of high frequency testing allows a the “small” difference accounting for the data spread
relatively fast acquisition of fatigue fracture data for in Fig. 23 could arise also from a temperature differ-
metals. That this phenomenon is not directly trans- ence on the order of only 2 ◦ C. Nevertheless, it is clear
ferable to viscoelastic materials is readily demon- that the interpretation is near at hand that in viscoelas-

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 135

Fig. 24 Pressure pulse profile (voltage record) for high rate frac-
ture attempt. Rise time ≈10−14 µs for these types of tests

8.7 Dynamic loading on Solithane 113

As an example of an extremely transient loading his-

tory for which the steady solution to viscoelastic
crack propagation clearly breaks down we consider the
Fig. 23 The same data as in Fig. 22 plotted as the crack growth
application of loading a specimen with a stress pulse
per cycle period; the data collapses into virtually the same rela- applied to the surfaces of a crack in the timeframe of
tionship microseconds. Drawing on dynamic fracture investiga-
tions related to brittle solids, conducted in cooperation
with K. Ravi-Chandar, the current editor of this jour-
tic fatigue29 it is the time-rate of crack propagation, or
nal, an electromagnetic loading device (Ravi-Chandar
rather “the time under elevated stress” that determines
and Knauss 1982, 1984a, b) was used to pressurize the
the average growth rate, and not simply how often the
flanks of a crack in a sheet of Solithane 113 with a time
crack front is stressed into the failure domain.
history illustrated in Fig. 24. Typically, a rise time on the
A final comment regarding the consistency of
order of 10 µs was achieved to drive the crack towards
Figs. 20, 21, 22 and 23. If the “time at load” were
propagation. However, in spite of sizeable stress ampli-
always the primary rule governing fatigue crack propa-
tudes achieved for these short durations, it was never
gation then the two traces in Fig. 21 should be reducible
possible to propagate a crack. While cracks in brittle
to (nearly) the same so that the average velocities are
solids like Homalite 100 possessing a Young’s mod-
the same. That is apparently not correct to the degree
ulus of 4550 MPa (for properties see Ravi-Chandar
that the data in Figs. 22 and 23 are reducible. How-
and Knauss 1982) propagated under an initial stress
ever, this may well be the difference that arises from √
intensity on the order of 0.5 MPa m, similar load-
the fact that the data in Fig. 21 derive from a (transient)
ing amplitudes could never propagate a crack in the
start-up history, while the data in Figs. 22 and 23 do
elastomer at room temperatures. For comparison, the
not involve this early transient history. Whether that is
rubbery Young’s modulus of Solithane 113 is between
also partially the result of different material properties,
2.75 and 3.5 MPa compared to 4550 MPa for Homa-
(different material batches) is not clear.
lite, and the glassy Young’s modulus of Solithane 113
29 It is clear from the context that these results are applicable to
is only 370 MPa, still less by a factor in excess of 10
the fatigue of rubber. In the context of the fatigue of structural than that for Homalite 100. It should be noted that the
plastics, which demonstrate yield-like, though time dependent, rise time of the pressure pulse device (∼10 µs) should
behavior, one would ask whether a similar behavior prevails. place the Solithane 113 response into or very close to
Gregory and Botsis (1991) have shown for polystyrene at room
temperatures that, similar to the situation for the elastomer here,
the glassy domain at 20 ◦ C if one does not account for
the time-based growth rate rather than that based on the numbers the shift in intrinsic time scales occasioned by the high
of cycles leads to a more unified presentation. dilatation at the crack tip discussed in Sect. 7.3.

136 W. G. Knauss

Fig. 25 A sequence of high

speed camera records
(100,000 frames per
second), 10 µs apart (image
proliferation downward in
1st column, then downward
in 2nd and 3rd columns)

Figure 25 presents a sequence of images from a test separation distance between the legs by the invers of
conducted under these conditions: The initially gray the separation distance squared: The net result of these
areas at the top and bottom of each frame represent the experiments was that at 20 ◦ C none of these high rate
as yet unstressed domain giving way to fully stressed loading scenarios could provide any observable crack
(black) areas in the later images. In the initial frame propagation! To pursue some understanding of this fact
only very little separation of the crack surfaces is evi- one must recognize that the time scale of 10 µs brings
dent, but grows in each successive frame. The legs of the (50/50) composition of Solithane 113 material just
the doubled-up copper strip carrying the current are ini- about to the middle of the transition zone at 20 ◦ C30 not
tially separated by a thin Mylar insulator, not clearly taking into account the higher rates experienced at the
identifiable in any early image but probably part of the crack tip. On the other hand, as discussed in Sect. 7.3
central dark line in the middle of the opening crack and one must consider that the dilatation at the crack tip pro-
ejected during the further separation of the crack faces. vides for an additional “equivalent temperature rise” on
The copper driver strip evolves into a buckled config- the order of 30 ◦ C.
uration during this sequence because the separation of Because the time frame of these tests was able
the legs of the folded strip experienced longitudinal to clearly achieve dynamic fracture with this loading
tension (left–right) which is converted to compression apparatus in a glassy polyester at room temperature
on reflection at the connections to the capacitor banks. (Ravi-Chandar and Knauss 1984a, b) it was natural to
What is important to recognize is that (a) the crack ask whether increasing the loading rate (or equiva-
front opens up to significant deformations during this lently lowering the temperature)31 could achieve frac-
sequence, and (b) that these deformations arise from 30At 20 ◦ C the middle of the transition zone is close to a
the initial impulse provided by the electro-dynamic
force, because the force exerted on the crack faces by 31 At the time of these tests there existed doubt whether the
the legs of the folded copper strip decreases with the time–temperature equivalence principle could be extended to

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 137

ture. Consequently the Solithane material was retested capability under moderate stress loading: In contrast
at about −90 ◦ C, and indeed fracture occurred as it did to the Solithane 113 material illustrated to this point,
in the glassy polyester material. The crack speed was and which produces considerable rates of crack growth
comparable to that in glassy polymers (about 400 m/s) (in a strip geometry) under strains of a few percent,
and fracture surface was completely tiled with conic the material to be considered here next can experience
marks similar to that observed in the glassy polymer, strains of a few tens of percent in the same geometry.
polymethymethacrylate (see Yang and Ravi-Chandar In keeping with the objective to illustrate that use of
1997, for a brief description of these experiments). The the instantaneous application of the crack propagation
net message to gather from these experiments is that Equations 37 or 39 may not be universally permissible,
polymeric solids will fracture in possibly widely dif- it is of interest to examine the start-up behavior of a
ferent manners depending on either the temperature or crack, specifically also in the test configuration shown
the loading rate conditions. In particular it bears empha- in Fig. 3b. For the following data presentation the strain
sizing that a solid that possess elastomeric properties across the strip has been applied rapidly in a time frame
at atmospheric conditions can/will behave like a brittle of a second or less to reach its maximum value in the
solid at sufficiently high loading rates or sufficiently range of (nominally) 25–40 %. Figures 26 and 27 show
low temperatures, while the converse is likely to hold representative crack propagation responses.
for glassy polymers at sufficiently high temperatures One notes first that there are transient histories with
and/or low deformation rates. The generality of this distinctly different time scales besides eventually lead-
statement is likely to be limited, however, by whether ing to different average propagation velocities. It is not
the polymer is of the cross-linked or uncross-linked clear why the “average” velocity in Fig. 27 should
type. achieve a relative minimum around the time frame
which did not correspond to the crack-tip being in the
middle of the specimen along the large dimension; it is
9 Some observations with an elastomer of higher thus not likely to be dictated by the instantaneous spec-
compliance imen geometry. It may have more to do with the statis-
tical nature of the evolvement of the crack-tip region, a
Having explored whether the proposition that the crack sequence for which is shown in Fig. 28 (Knauss 1963,
propagation theory advanced in the form of Eqs. 37 1965)
or 39 applies “instantaneously“ in non-steady crack Because the HC rubber was not transparent, only
propagation histories—at least for a particular solid— shadowgraphs could be recorded in Fig. 28 so that the
let us turn to experimental results derived from a mate- evolution of the cohesive material could be recorded
rial that has obviously different viscoelastic properties, only after the major deterioration in the crack tip inte-
than the material associated with the discussion to this rior region had occurred. Nevertheless, this sequence
point. Specifically, one is interested in considering sit- shows that there is a sizeable time scale during which
uations when the condition that limits the stress inten- the detailed crack-tip geometry changes and that this
sity rate relative to the cohesive zone size, equation 54, time scale is consistent with the variations in Figs. 26
is not fulfilled. To illustrate that there may be a wide and 27.
range of material responses in regard to these ques- Next one observes that the time to achieve some
tions let us consider experimental results for a moder- level of semi-steady crack propagation varies greatly
ately cross-linked HC rubber,32 used in the past as a with the applied strain, being on the order of 1300 sec-
binder for solid propellant rocket fuels (see Sect. 1). onds in Fig. 26 and of only 200 s in Fig. 27. In both cases
This material distinguished itself through large strain there exists an accelerating characteristic for the initial
crack growth, which is arguably associated with estab-
Footnote 31 continued lishing a cohesive zone. That this generation process
time scales as short as those employed in these tests. It has been depends on the (instantaneous?) speed of crack prop-
demonstrated in the meantime, that at least in the context of small
deformation viscoelasticity this procedure is justifiable (Zhao
agation is evident from the surface roughness appear-
et al. 2007). ance associated with various crack speeds (and cor-
32 Hydro-Carbon elastomer produced by the Thiokol Corpora- responding gross stress) as shown in the three exam-
tion. ples of Fig. 29 and resulting from crack speeds vary-

138 W. G. Knauss

Fig. 26 Crack propagation 2.5

history in HC rubber under
a “step strain” of 21.5 %,
ending in an average

Crack-tip velocity, in/1000 sec

2.0 1.5

Crack-tip velocity, in/1000sec

velocity on the order of
10−3 in./s. The time scale 1.0

chosen simplifies the

comparison with the data in 0.5

Fig. 27. The insert depicts

the fully available time 0.0

history of 3750 s 1.0 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000
Time, sec


0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000
Time, sec

Fig. 27 Crack propagation 8

history in HC rubber under
a “step strain” of 28.6 %, 7
ending in an average
Crack-tip velocity, in/1000 sec

velocity of about 6
5 × 10−3 in./s with the same
time frame as for Fig. 26 5
(not for the insert)

0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000
Time, sec

Fig. 28 Sequence of a
typical crack-tip appearance
at an approximate
propagation speed of
0.25 mm/min. Each frame
covers a length of about
5 mm along the left–right
axis and is separated by
about 15 s

ing between 10−3 and 103 in./min. The highest crack ness argued for the cohesive zone to be very small. It
speed generates a surface that is mostly glass-like and is similarly rational to associate the roughness appear-
devoid of major roughness; (recall that the Solithane ance here with the fracture process being concentrated
113 typically produced mirror like fracture surface at into a very small cohesive zone where random fluctua-
all velocities observed, and that this (lack of) rough- tions in the location of failure sites within that zone are

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 139

Fig. 29 Roughness
appearance of fracture
surfaces generated in
HC-Thiokol rubber at crack
speeds of (from left to right)
10−3 , 100 and 103 in./min.
Crack propagation
orientation is from bottom
to top

Fig. 30 Velocity of crack

propagation in HC rubber as
a function of the gross stress
on a strip geometry (c.f.
Fig. 9). The solid line is a
curve fit, no theoretical

minimized. On the other hand, for the rougher case(s) gross load, (in the linear sense proportional to the stress
associated with slower velocities the failure process intensity factor) for the test strip geometry in Fig. 9
is distributed over a larger domain so that more fail- (Knauss 1963).
ure sites develop throughout that domain, but at lower Let us first consider a numerical study involving
stress levels. a damage-controlled cohesive zone in a viscoelastic
Simply stated, these observations assert that—for fracture problem. This examination of (non-dynamic)
this material—a cohesive zone shrinks with increased crack propagation in a primarily linearly viscoelastic
crack propagation speed accompanying higher stresses/ medium involves cohesive forces at the crack tip which
loads. Though the three images may be insufficient to are governed by the development of voids in the crack
establish whether this dependence is monotonic with tip region (Knauss and Losi 1993) and which grew as a
the speed or the stress intensity factor, this finding is function of the local stresses. That model also delivered
directly opposite to what the model delineated in the a decreasing cohesive zone size as the crack speed (or
previous sections asserts and which corroborates exper- the stress intensity increases factor) increased, though
imentally with the Solithane 113 material. For later ref- the size of the cohesive zone was not monotonic with
erence we include here in Fig. 30 the measurements of the increase in stress intensity over the whole crack
the crack speed in this HC rubber as a function of the speed range considered. This result is illustrated in

140 W. G. Knauss

Having presented some fundamental elements of

crack growth behavior in viscoelastic solids, it seems
appropriate to conclude this review of fracture of
(mostly linearly) viscoelastic solids with a discussion
of the possible sources of random variations in fail-
ure behavior from the viewpoint of crack growth. This
discussion follows purely analytical lines on the pre-
sumption that the physical observations are commonly
Referring to Eqs. 35–39, it is clear that the mate-
rial parameters which influence crack growth are (a)
the creep compliance (as well as the bulk modulus or
Poisson’s ratio, for isotropic materials), (b) the fracture
energy  (or the crack opening displacement), and (c)
the cohesive stress σ0 . Normally one thinks of struc-
tures as being unflawed, yet one knows that flaws of
statistically distributed degrees or sizes always exist.
As a consequence one must consider the stress intensity
Fig. 31 Size of the cohesive zone as a function of the stress factor as a statistical variable even though the applied
intensity factor for a nonlinear material strip along the crack (far-field or average) stress may be deterministic. The
effects of combining variations in all these parame-
ters can be very perplexing. For example, the variation
Fig. 31, were the cohesive zone is normalized by the in the creep compliance (or relaxation modulus) may
height “h” representing the thickness of the nonlinear affect separately the long time behavior (i. e., D∞ or
layer along the crack axis; the stress intensity factor is E ∞ ) as well as the retardation spectrum, which in turn
normalized by the glassy modulus of the viscoelastic determines the rate of creep in the transition zone, and
solid and the square root of the layer thickness. the short time or glassy behavior. In the sequel it is
In closing this section on crack propagation in assumed that the creep compliance is not subject to sta-
softer elastomers this discussion has been included tistical variations. Rather, we consider the effect of the
here to demonstrate that for certain viscoelastic mate- remaining parameters , σ0 and K . The fracture para-
rial behaviors it is quite likely that results differing meters  and σ0 are related through the microstructure
from those achieved with the polyurethane elastomer of the material. At this time it is not known what that
Solithane 113. relation is. If one assumes that the two parameters vary
independently one can estimate the variation of the time
dependent failure.
In the absence of inertial effects let the time of failure
10 Statistical aspects of fracture in viscoelastic of a centrally perforated sheet (see insert in Fig. 17) be
materials determined as the time when the crack begins to prop-
agate with infinite (very large) velocity as illustrated
One of the recurring questions in failure analysis of in Fig. 16. The example considered in connection with
structures is that of reliability. It often appears that the discussion on static fatigue in Sect. 8.3 illustrated
polymers exhibit less predictive failure behavior than that the crack propagation Eqs. 35 and 37 apply reason-
the usual engineering materials, because in viscoelas- ably well instantaneously if the suddenly applied global
tic materials sizeable experimental scatter commonly stress σ∞ is small compared to the cohesive stress σ0 ;
marks the time component of the failure process. This their integration for the crack size history as a func-
behavior instills a lack of reliability into engineering tion of time yields thus the failure time of the sheet,
data and analysis, which is, however, without doubt t ∗ . This is shown as the solid line in Fig. 32 for the
most often due to the lack of attention given to the time Solithane 113 elastomer illustrated before. A change
dependence effects of the fracture process. in  shifts the curve along the ordinate, a change in

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 141

Fig. 32 Effect of variations in the fracture energy  and in the Here the deviation form the mean curve is also considered sep-
cohesive stress on the failure time of a cracked sheet. A change arately for both quanitities. σr e f corresponds to the lower limit
in  shifts the curve along the ordinate, a change in σ0 along of failure for a crack of a fixed size. ΦT is the shift factor for the
the abscissa if both quantities are considered to be independent. thermorheologically simple material (Knauss 1976)

σ0 along the abscissa if both quantities are considered flaws will break almost immediately (or even before
to be independent. The deviation from the mean curve one has been able to apply the load fully). It is thus evi-
is considered only separately for both quanitities, each dent that the shape of the distribution of failure times
by ±20 %. σr e f corresponds to a stress which, for long depends on the stress level, a rather symmetric distri-
times (t ∗ → ∞), just barely produces failure in a sheet bution of initial flaws becoming highly skewed in real
containing a crack of 0.025 mm (0.001 in.) in length. time. Moreover, it is important in the context of fracture
Initial flaw sizes vary statistically in all structures mechanics to recognize that this distribution change is
and materials, thereby changing the initial stress inten- a direct consequence of the time dependent growth rate
sity factor when identical global loads are applied. In of cracks in the viscoelastic material.
Fig. 33 the effect of variable initial crack size on the fail- It should be pointed out, however, that in many
ure time of a sheet is demonstrated. Again, the sheet is applications one is only interested in a relatively nar-
considered to be loaded by a step stress in time, applied row range of stress levels σ∞ or failure times. In that
normal to the crack orientation. The inset plot provides case variations in the shape of the failure time distri-
the distribution of initial flaw sizes and the sigmoidal bution would be relatively small; this is confirmed by
curve spanning the graphs is the same as the central, the investigation of Halpin and Polley (1967) who dealt
heavy curve in Fig. 32. with the statistics of rupture in the rubbery or long time
Superposed on that sigmoidal curve are the distrib- range.
utions of failure times t ∗ one would experience in an
ensemble of sheet specimens having the indicated dis-
tribution of initial flaws. When σ = σr e f , an initial 11 Closure: nonlinearly viscoelastic fracture
flaw size of 0.025 mm will just barely produce fail- mechanics
ure; for all specimens having smaller cracks no failure
will occur. As the applied stress is increased all speci- The forgoing has presented a review of the current sta-
mens fail eventually (small initial cracks giving rise to tus of the fundamentals regarding fracture in viscoelas-
long failure times, large ones to short failure times). As tic materials. Reference to viscoelastic materials has
the applied stress approaches large values (uppermost implied time-dependent fracture, generally conceived
distribution of failure times) the specimens with large or viewed as time-dependent crack propagation, even

142 W. G. Knauss

Fig. 33 Effect of a
distribution of initial crack
sizes in sheet specimens on
the failure times of a
specimen ensemble of,
shown at three different
stress levels (Knauss 1976)

in the absence of inertial effects controlling or con- ear properties problem can be solved in some generality
tributing to crack propagation. The review has been is not certain at this time.
mostly limited to the use of linearly viscoelastic mate- Simple “Ansätze” for these possibilities exist33
rial description, essentially because the formulation through the work of Brown and coworkers (Brown and
of nonlinearly viscoelastic materials is in a state of Bhattacharya 1985; Lu et al. 1988; Wang and Brown
infancy. The cursory peruser of the open literature will, 1989) for a semi-crystalline material (polyethylene),
no doubt, meet with numerous publications concerned and for crazing solids (e.g. Polystyrene and Poly-
with nonlinearly viscoelastic behavior, offering vari- carbonate) through the crack layer model discussed
ous forms of material descriptions. Most of these are by Chudnovsky and collaborators (Chudnovsky et al.
one dimensional in character and without potential for 1983; Botsis et al. 1987a, b; Kadota and Chudnovsky
generalization to three- or even two-dimensional stress 1992; Kim et al. 1993). These studies are rooted in
states. Accordingly, the time dependent fracture behav- experimental observations with a limited correlation to
ior of structural amorphous or semi-crystalline poly- analytical developments. On the other side of the coin
mers is not supported by nearly a similar degree of ana- are the more analytical studies that illustrate what the
lytical understanding available for linearly viscoelastic consequences of certain postulated nonlinear constitu-
fracture mechanics, however limited that framework tive behavior should be for crack propagation problems,
still may be at this time. without, however, paralleling these developments with
The essence of current linearly viscoelastic models thorough experimental counterparts. In this category
is based on the dissipation of energy throughout the we find the studies by Schapery (1968, 1969, 1990)
small region surrounding the immediate crack tip in who has primarily and implicitly addressed the near-
motion. This dissipation depends on the rate of crack rubbery range of nonlinear material behavior, with-
propagation. Nonlinear models must cope with the evo- out providing estimates or guides for the range of
lution of a zone of locally unstable material, that is applicability: The pertinent material data do not seem
similar to a line zone of plastically yielding material to exist in the printed literature. A further example of
with an as yet unspecified time-dependent character- a two-domain nonlinearly viscoelastic crack propaga-
istic, and is, in general, stress-history dependent. This tion model has been offered computationally by Knauss
line zone is surrounded by a domain of less disturbed and Losi (1993) through the use of a nonlinear vis-
but possibly “craze”-damaged material that possesses coelasticity model based on free volume arguments
viscoelastic properties at a different time scale, and it
33 It is not really possible to do justice to the cited contributions
is the interaction between these two types of nonlin-
in such a cursory manner. However, in the interest of providing a
ear material zones that is responsible for the rate of
very brief introduction is offered to this particular topic through
crack propagation. Whether this dual-zone and nonlin- the subsequent references.

A review of fracture in viscoelastic materials 143

coupled to disintegration studies by Parvin and Knauss Brown N, Bhattacharya SK (1985) The initiation of slow crack
(1990) without, however, connecting this to any spe- growth in linear polyethylene under single edge notch ten-
sion and plane strain. J Mater Sci 20(12):4553–4560
cific experimental data. Similar status must be accorded Bueche F, Halpin JC (1964) Molecular theory for tensile strength
the exploratory work of Moran and Knauss (1992) in of gum elastomers. J Appl Phys 35(1):36–41
numerically addressing the changes in the crack tip Bueckner HF (1958) The propagation of cracks and the energy
stress field as a result of dilatation induced softening of elastic deformation. Trans ASME 80(6):1225–1230
Carbone G, Persson BNJ (2005) Crack motion in viscoelas-
material characteristics (reduction in viscosity). tic solids: the role of the flash temperature. Eur Phys J E
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