, Volume 52, Issue 14, pp 3489–3498 | Cite as

Concurrent factors determine toughening in the hydraulic fracture of poroelastic composites

Active behavior in soft matter and Mechanobiology


Brittle materials fail catastrophically. In consequence of their limited flaw-tolerance, failure occurs by localized fracture and is typically a dynamic process. Recently, experiments on epithelial cell monolayers have revealed that this scenario can be significantly modified when the material susceptible to cracking is adhered to a hydrogel substrate. Thanks to the hydraulic coupling between the brittle layer and the poroelastic substrate, such a composite can develop a toughening mechanism that relies on the simultaneous growth of multiple cracks. Here, we study this remarkable behaviour by means of a detailed model, and explore how the material and loading parameters concur in determining the macroscopic toughness of the system. By extending a previous study, our results show that rapid loading conveys material toughness by promoting distributed cracking. Moreover, our theoretical findings may suggest innovative architectures of flaw-insensitive materials with higher toughness.


Hydraulic fracture Toughening Multiple cracking Brittle layer Hydrogel Cohesive zone 



The authors acknowledge the support of the European Research Council (AdG-340685 MicroMotility) and of National Group of Mathematical Physics (GNFM-INdAM) through the initiative “Progetto Giovani”. The authors also thank prof. Robert M. McMeeking for useful discussions on the subject.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SISSA–International School for Advanced StudiesTriesteItaly

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