Encyclopedia of Tribology

2013 Edition
| Editors: Q. Jane Wang, Yip-Wah Chung

Griffith Theory of Fracture

  • Alan T. ZehnderEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-92897-5_259



The Griffith theory states that a crack will propagate when the reduction in potential energy that occurs due to crack growth is greater than or equal to the increase in surface energy due to the creation of new free surfaces. This theory is applicable to elastic materials that fracture in a brittle fashion.

Scientific Fundamentals

Through a series of experiments, stress analyses, and synthesis of prior work, in his remarkable paper Griffith (1921) developed the fundamental concept that underlies the modern theory of linear elastic fracture mechanics. His theory is based on balancing the reduction of potential energy that occurs during fracture with the increase in surface energy due to the creation of new free surfaces when a crack grows.

The energy release rate, G, is defined as the energy that flows to the crack tip per unit of new crack surface created. An energy balance shows that
$$ G = - \frac{{\partial \Pi...
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. ASTM, ASTM E 1820: Standard Test Method for Measurement of Fracture Toughness (ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2005)Google Scholar
  2. A.A. Griffith, The phenomena of rupture and flow in solids. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. A 221, 163–198 (1921)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. C.W. Hwang, Virtual crack extension method for calculating rates of energy release rate and numerical simulation of crack growth in two and three dimensions. Ph.D. thesis, Cornell University 1999Google Scholar
  4. M. Janssen, J. Zuidema, R. Wanhill, Fracture Mechanics (Spon Press, London, 2004)Google Scholar
  5. D.R. Moore, J.G. Williams, Peel testing of flexible laminates, in Fracture Mechanics Testing Methods for Polymers, Adhesives and Composites (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2001), pp. 203–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. J.R. Rice, Chap 3. Fracture, in Mathematical Analysis in the Mechanics of Fracture, ed. by H. Liebowitz, vol. II (Academic Press, New York, 1968), pp. 191–311Google Scholar
  7. C.H. Wu, Maximum energy release rate criterion applied to a tension-compression specimen with crack. J. Elasticity 8, 235–257 (1978)zbMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Field of Theoretical and Applied MechanicsCornell UniversityIthacaUSA