Transient and steady state viscoelastic crack propagation in a double cantilever beam specimen

Crack growth in viscoelastic materials is understood with the use of cohesive models, or steady state theories which focus on viscoelastic dissipation. We consider a double cantilever beam (DCB) specimen under a remote constant pure moment, which is initially suddenly applied to the beams. It is shown that the response to the applied moment rapidly reaches a steady state in terms of crack propagation speed. In contrast, it is shown that the external work rate, contributing to fracture energy, stored elastic energy and viscous dissipation, has a transient that possibly lasts a significantly longer time. The dissipation rate increases with speed for a standard material, reaching a limit governed by the ratio of instantaneous to relaxed modulus. However, the initial dissipation rate at low crack propagation speeds can be orders of magnitude larger than the latter limit, and depends on the ratio between the initial crack size and the fracture process zone size, a regime which we define ultratough. For thin beams, we do not find any evidence, even in the steady state, of the dissipation-based theories’ suggestion of a reduced maximum load and then of an unstable regime of decreasing load with speed.