, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 643-654

Cyclic fatigue in monolithic alumina: mechanisms for crack advance promoted by frictional wear of grain bridges

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The microstructural basis of cyclic fatigue-crack propagation in monolithic alumina has been investigated experimentally and theoretically. A true cyclic fatigue effect has been verified, distinct from environmentally assisted slow crack growth (static fatigue). Microstructures with smaller grain sizes were found to promote faster crack-growth rates; growth rates were also increased at higher load ratios (i.e. ratio of minimum to maximum applied loads). Using in situ crack-path analysis performed on a tensile loading stage mounted in the scanning electron microscope, grain bridging was observed to be the primary source of toughening by crack-tip shielding. In fact, crack advance under cyclic fatigue appeared to result from a decrease in the shielding capacity of these bridges commensurate with oscillatory loading. It is proposed that the primary source of this degradation is frictional wear at the boundaries of the bridging grains, consistent with recently proposed bridging/degradation models, and as seen via fractographic and in situ analyses; specifically, load versus crack-openingdisplacement hysteresis loops can be measured and related to the irreversible energy losses corresponding to this phenomenon.