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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  2. Double-network gels are a class of tough soft materials comprising two elastic networks with contrasting structures. The formation of a large internal damage zone ahead of the crack tip by the rupturing of the brittle network accounts for the large crack resistance of the materials. Understanding what determines the damage zone is the central question of the fracture mechanics of double-network gels. In this work, we found that at the onset of crack propagation, the size of necking zone, in which the brittle network breaks into fragments and the stretchable network is highly stretched, distinctly decreases with the increase of the solvent viscosity, resulting in a reduction in the fracture toughness of the material. This is in sharp contrast to the tensile behavior of the material that does not change with the solvent viscosity. This result suggests that the dynamics of stretchable network strands, triggered by the rupture of the brittle network, plays a role. To account for this solvent viscosity effect on the crack initiation, a delayed blunting mechanism regarding the polymer dynamics effect is proposed. The discovery on the role of the polymer dynamic adds an important missing piece to the fracture mechanism of this unique material.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 7, 2022