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Dependence of Equilibrium Griffith Surface Energy on Crack Speed in Phase-Field Models for Fracture Coupled to Elastodynamics

Phase-field models for crack propagation enable the simulation of complex crack patterns without complex and expensive tracking and remeshing as cracks grow. In the setting without inertia, the crack evolution is obtained from a variational energetic starting point, and leads to an equation for the order parameter coupled to elastostatics. Careful mathematical analysis has shown that this is consistent with the Griffith model for fracture. Recent efforts to include inertia in this formulation have replaced elastostatics by elastodynamics. In this brief note, we examine the elastodynamic augmentation, and find that it effectively causes the Griffith surface energy to depend on the velocity of the crack. That is, considering two identical specimens that are each fractured by a single crack that grows at different velocities in the two specimens, it is expected that the final equilibrium configurations are nominally identical; however, the phase-field fracture models augmented with elastodynamics achieve final configurations – in particular, the Griffiths surface energy contributions – that depend on the crack velocity. The physical reason is that the finite relaxation time for the stresses in the elastodynamic setting enables the cracked region to widen, beyond the value observed in the quasistatic setting. Once the crack widens, the “no-healing” condition prevents it from relaxing even after the specimen reaches equilibrium. In phase-field models, crack width in the reference configuration is unrelated to the physical opening of the crack but is instead a measure of Griffiths surface energy. This observation suggests that elastodynamic phase-field fracture models should not be used in settings where the crack velocity is large.

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