Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 1608–1616 | Cite as

Fatigue crack growth in polymers subjected to fully compressive cyclic loads

  • L. Pruitt
  • R. Hermann
  • S. Suresh


It is experimentally demonstrated in this work that the application of cyclic compression loads to polymeric materials, specifically high-density polyethylene and polystyrene, results in the nucleation and propagation of stable fatigue cracks. The cracks grow at a progressively slower rate along the plane of the notch in a direction perpendicular to the far-field cyclic compression axis. The overall characteristics of this compression fatigue fracture are macroscopically similar to those seen in metals, ceramics, as well as discontinuously reinforced inorganic composites. It is reasoned that the origin of this Mode I compression fatigue effect is the generation of a zone of residual tensile stress locally in the vicinity of the notch-tip upon unloading from the maximum far-field compressive stress. The residual tensile field is generated by permanent damage arising from crazing and/or shear deformation ahead of the notch-tip. Evidence for the inducement of residual tensile stresses on the crack plane is provided with the aid of micrographs of near-tip region where crazes are observed along the plane of the crack, i.e. normal to the compression loading axis. Compression fatigue crack growth in polystyrene is also highly discontinuous in the sense that the crack remains dormant during thousands of fatigue cycles following which there is a burst of crack extension, possibly in association with fracture within the craze. This intermittent growth process in cyclic compression is analogous to the formation of discontinuous growth bands during the tension fatigue of many crazeable polymers. The exhaustion of the near-tip residual tensile field and the increase in the level of crack closure with increasing crack length cause the fatigue crack to arrest. The universal features of this phenomenon are discussed in the context of ductile and brittle, non-crystalline and crystalline, as well as monolithic and composite materials.


Fatigue Fatigue Crack Fatigue Fracture Fatigue Crack Growth Crack Closure 
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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Pruitt
    • 1
  • R. Hermann
    • 1
  • S. Suresh
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of EngineeringBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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