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Multi-scale Spacetime Simulation of Dynamic Fracture

Faculty: Robert Haber (Mechanical Science & Engineering)

Students: Reza Abedi, Morgan Hawker (Mechanical Sciencse & Engineering)

First transient study of fracture process zone size shows that zone size approaches zero as crack-tip velocity nears the material’s Rayleigh wave speed.

Spacetime finite element simulation of dynamic fracture for mixed-mode shock loading. Adaptive spacetime meshing tracks solution-dependent crack path. Faster tensile pressure wave causes initial straight-line growth; slower shear waves cause change in direction. Quasi-singular velocity spike appears as crack accelerates. Color indicates strain energy density; height shows velocity magnitude.

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Dynamic fracture governs important modes of material failure as well as the mechanics of earthquakes at much larger length scales. We develop new numerical methods to simulate dynamic fracture with unprecedented levels of detail. We discovered unexpected evidence of singular velocity response at cohesive crack tips; we seek deeper understanding of this phenomenon.


We embed a cohesive failure model within an elastodynamic spacetime finite element simulation. Adaptive analysis techniques guarantee very high-resolution solutions that can track arbitrary crack paths. Post-simulation visualizations reveal quasi-singular (non-singular core) velocity response when the fracture process zone is sufficiently small; i.e., in high-strength materials and in weaker materials with faster crack velocities.


Discovery of quasi-singular velocity response led to a rethinking of fracture kinetics. Unprecedented resolution supports studies of microcracking and other multi-scale phenomena for better prediction of dynamic fractures in engineered materials and along fault lines in earthquakes.

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