Prediction of material fracture toughness as function of microstructure
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Microstructure determines fracture toughness of materials through the activation of different fracture mechanisms. To tailor the fracture toughness through microstructure design, it is important to establish relations between microstructure and fracture toughness. To this end, systematic characterization of microstructures, explicit tracking of crack propagation process and realistic representation of deformation and fracture at different length scales are required. A cohesive finite element method (CFEM) based multiscale framework is proposed for analyzing the effect of microstructural heterogeneity, phase morphology, texture, constituent behavior and interfacial bonding strength on fracture toughness. The approach uses the J-integral to calculate the initiation/propagation fracture toughness, allowing explicit representation of realistic microstructures and fundamental fracture mechanisms. Both brittle and ductile materials can be analyzed using this framework. For two-phase Al₂O₃/TiB₂ ceramics, the propagation fracture toughness is improved through fine microstructure size scale, rounded reinforcement morphology and appropriately balanced interphase bonding strength and compliance. These microstructure characteristics can promote interface debonding and discourage particle cracking induced catastrophic failure. Based on the CFEM results, a semi-empirical model is developed to establish a quantitative relation between the propagation toughness and statistical measures of microstructure, fracture mechanisms, constituent and interfacial properties. The analytical model provides deeper insights into the fracture process as it quantitatively predicts the proportion of each fracture mechanism in the heterogeneous microstructure. Based on the study on brittle materials, the semi-analytical model is extended to ductile materials such as AZ31 Mg alloy and Ti-6Al-4V alloy. The fracture resistance in these materials not only depends on the crack surfaces formed during the failure process, but also largely determined by the bulk plastic energy dissipation. The CFEM simulation permits surface energy release rate to be quantified through explicit tracking of crack propagation in the microstructure. The plastic energy dissipation rate is evaluated as the difference between the predicted J value and the surface energy release rate. This method allows competition between material deformation and fracture as well as competition between transgranular and intergranular fracture to be quantified. The methodology developed in this thesis is potentially useful for both the selection of materials and tailoring of microstructure to improve fracture resistance.