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Abstract In the standard fracture test specimens, the crack-parallel normal stress is negligible. However, its effect can be strong, as revealed by a new type of experiment, briefly named the gap test. It consists of a simple modification of the standard three-point-bend test whose main idea is to use plastic pads with a near-perfect yield plateau to generate a constant crack-parallel compression and install the end supports with a gap that closes only when the pads yield. This way, the test beam transits from one statically determinate loading configuration to another, making evaluation unambiguous. For concrete, the gap test showed that moderate crack-parallel compressive stress can increase up to 1.8 times the Mode I (opening) fracture energy of concrete, and reduce it to almost zero on approach to the compressive stress limit. To model it, the fracture process zone must be characterized tensorially. We use computer simulations with crack-band microplane model, considering both in-plane and out-of-plane crack-parallel stresses for plain and fiber-reinforced concretes, and anisotropic shale. The results have broad implications for all quasibrittle materials, including shale, fiber composites, coarse ceramics, sea ice, foams, and fone. Except for negligible crack-parallel stress, the line crack models are shown to be inapplicable.more »
The line crack models, including linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM), cohesive crack model (CCM), and extended finite element method (XFEM), rest on the century-old hypothesis of constancy of materials’ fracture energy. However, the type of fracture test presented here, named the gap test, reveals that, in concrete and probably all quasibrittle materials, including coarse-grained ceramics, rocks, stiff foams, fiber composites, wood, and sea ice, the effective mode I fracture energy depends strongly on the crack-parallel normal stress, in-plane or out-of-plane. This stress can double the fracture energy or reduce it to zero. Why hasn’t this been detected earlier? Because the crack-parallel stress in all standard fracture specimens is negligible, and is, anyway, unaccountable by line crack models. To simulate this phenomenon by finite elements (FE), the fracture process zone must have a finite width, and must be characterized by a realistic tensorial softening damage model whose vectorial constitutive law captures oriented mesoscale frictional slip, microcrack opening, and splitting with microbuckling. This is best accomplished by the FE crack band model which, when coupled with microplane model M7, fits the test results satisfactorily. The lattice discrete particle model also works. However, the scalar stress–displacement softening law of CCM and tensorial modelsmore »