A convective instability mechanism for quasistatic crack branching in a hydrogel
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Experiments on quasistatic crack propagation in gelatin hydrogels reveal a new branching instability triggered by wetting the tip opening with a drop of aqueous solvent less viscous than the bulk one. We show that the emergence of unstable branches results from a balance between the rate of secondary crack growth and the rate of advection away from a non-linear elastic region of size G/E , where G is the fracture energy and E the small strain Young modulus. We build a minimal, predictive model that combines mechanical characteristics of this mesoscopic region and physical features of the process zone. It accounts for the details of the stability diagram and lends support to the idea that non-linear elasticity plays a critical role in crack front instabilities.
KeywordsFracture Energy Energy Release Rate Process Zone Linear Elastic Fracture Mechan Edge Crack
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