Fracture toughness testing of nanocrystalline alumina and fused quartz using chevron-notched microbeams
We show that chevron-notched samples offer an attractive approach to the measurement of fracture toughness in micron-scale samples of brittle materials and use the method to characterize quartz and nanocrystalline alumina. Focused ion beam milling is used to carve bend bars of rectangular cross-section a few micrometres wide and containing a notch with a triangular ligament. Load-controlled testing is conducted using a nanoindentation apparatus. If the notch is appropriately machined, cracks nucleate and propagate in a stable fashion before becoming unstable. Sample dimensions are measured using a scanning electron microscope, and are used as input in finite element simulations of the bars' elastic deformation for various crack lengths. The calculated compliance calibration curve and the measured peak load then give the local fracture toughness of the material. Advantages of the method include a low sensitivity to environmental subcritical crack growth, and the fact that it measures toughness at the tip of a sharp crack situated in material unaffected by ion-milling. The approach is demonstrated on two materials, namely, monolithic fused quartz and nanocrystalline alumina Nexter (TM) 610 fibres; results for the latter give the intrinsic grain boundary toughness of alumina, free of grain bridging effects. (C) 2014 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd.