SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1997

The Effect of Crack Instability/Stability on Fracture Toughness of Brittle Materials


This paper summarizes three recent experimental works coauthored by the present author regarding the effect of crack instability/stability on fracture toughness, and also includes the necessary formulae for predicting stability.

Two recent works have shown that unstable crack extension resulted in apparent increases in fracture toughness compared to that determined during stable crack growth. In the first investigation a quasi-brittle polymer, polymethylmethacrylate, was examined. In the second, a more brittle metallic material, tungsten, was tested. In both cases the transition from unstable to stable behavior was predicted based on stability analyses. The third investigation was conducted on a truly brittle ceramic material, hot pressed silicon nitride. These three papers showed that fracture toughness test results conducted on brittle materials vary according to whether the material fractures in an unstable or stable manner. Suggestions for achieving this important yet difficult phenomenon of stable crack growth, which is necessary when determining the fracture toughness variation occurring during unstable/stable crack advance, are presented, as well as recommendations for further research.

Author Information

Baratta, FI
, Arlington, MA
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Developed by Committee: E08
Pages: 577–601
DOI: 10.1520/STP12331S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5374-5
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-2410-3