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Material failure

In materials science, material failure is the loss of load carrying capacity of a material unit. This definition per se introduces the fact that material failure can be examined in different scales, from microscopic, mesoscale to macroscopic. In structural problems, where the structural response should be determined beyond the initiation of nonlinear material behaviour, material failure is of profound importance for the determination of the integrity of the structure. On the other hand, due to the lack of globally accepted fracture criteria, the determination of the structure's damage, due to material failure, is still under intensive research.


Types of material failure

Material failure can be distinguished in two broader categories depending on the scale in which the material is examined:

Microscopic failure

Microscopic material failure is defined in terms of crack propagation and initiation. Such methodologies are useful for gaining insight in the cracking of specimens and simple structures under well defined global load distributions. Microscopic failure considers the initiation and propagation of a crack. Failure criteria in this case are related to microscopic fracture. Some of the most popular failure models in this area are the micromechanical failure models, which combine the advantages of continuum mechanics and classical fracture mechanics[1]. Such models are based on the concept that during plastic deformation, microvoids nucleate and grow until a local plastic neck or fracture of the intervoid matrix occurs, which causes the coalescence of neighbouring voids. Such a model that appears in the literature quite often is GTN. It was proposed by Gurson and extended by Tvergaard and Needleman. Another approach, proposed by Rousselier, is based on continuum damage mechanics (CDM) and thermodynamics. Both models form a modification of the von Mises yield potential by introducing a scalar damage quantity, which represents the void volume fraction of cavities, the porosity f.

Macroscopic failure

Macroscopic material failure is defined in terms of load carrying capacity or energy storage capacity, equivalently. Li[2] presents a classification of macroscopic failure criteria in four categories:

  • Stress or strain failure
  • Energy type failure (S-criterion, T-criterion)
  • Damage failure
  • Empirical failure.

Five general levels are considered, at which the meaning of deformation and failure is interpreted differently: the structural element scale, the macroscopic scale where macroscopic stress and strain are defined, the mesoscale which is represented by a typical void, the microscale and the atomic scale. The material behaviour at one level is considered as a collective of its behaviour at a sublevel. An efficient deformation and failure model should be consistent at every level.

See also

  • Structural failure
  • Strength of materials


  1. ^ Besson J., Steglich D., Brocks W. (2003), Modelling of plain strain ductile rupture, International Journal of Plasticity, 19.
  2. ^ Li, Q.M. (2001), Strain energy density failure criterion, International Journal of Solids and Structures 38, pp. 6997–7013.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Material_failure". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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