Cracks in many soft solids behave very differently to the classical picture of fracture, where cracks are long and thin, with damage localised to a crack tip. In particular, small cracks in soft solids become highly rounded — almost circular — before they start to extend. However, despite being commonplace, this is still not well understood. We use a phase-separation technique in soft, stretched solids to controllably nucleate and grow small, nascent cracks. These give insight into the soft failure process. In particular, our results suggest fracture occurs in two regimes. When a crack is large, it obeys classical linear-elastic fracture mechanics, but when it is small it grows in a new, scale-free way at a constant driving stress.
- Industrial and Applied Mathematics Seminar