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    Brittle Fracture in Polyethylene Geomembranes

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    The common concept of polyethylene in geomembrane form is that of a compliant ductile material that yields at 12% elongation but will actually break only after reaching 800% or more elongation. This is so, but over extended periods of time polyethylene will also fail by brittle cracking at essentially zero elongation.

    Within two years of installation, brittle cracks have developed in geomembrane liners exposed on the side slopes of liquid impoundments. Such cracking has occurred at stresses well below the yield stress of the material.

    The characteristics of brittle fractures with respect to the locations where they occur, how they are initiated, how they propagate, and what can be done to prevent them are discussed in this paper.


    polyethylene, brittle fracture, geomembranes, stress cracking, flexible membrane liner, seams

    Author Information:

    Peggs, ID
    GeoSyntec, Inc., Boynton Beach, FL

    Carlson, DS
    GeoSyntec, Inc., Boynton Beach, FL

    Committee/Subcommittee: D35.10

    DOI: 10.1520/STP23497S