Crack tip blunting and cleavage under dynamic conditions
In structural materials with both brittle and ductile phases, cracks often initiate within the brittle phase and propagate dynamically towards the ductile phase. The macroscale, quasistatic toughness of the material thus depends on the outcome of this microscale, dynamic process. Indeed, dynamics has been hypothesized to suppress dislocation emission, which may explain the occurrence of brittle transgranular fracture in mild steels at low temperatures (Lin et al., 1987). Here, crack tip blunting and cleavage under dynamic conditions are explored using continuum mechanics and molecular dynamics simulations. The focus is on two questions: (1) whether dynamics can affect the energy barriers for dislocation emission and cleavage, and (2) what happens in the dynamic "overloaded" situation, in which both processes are energetically possible. In either case, dynamics may shift the balance between brittle cleavage and ductile blunting, thereby affecting the intrinsic ductility of the material. To explore these effects in simulation, a novel interatomic potential is used for which the intrinsic ductility is tunable, and a novel simulation technique is employed, termed as a "dynamic cleavage test", in which cracks can be run dynamically at a prescribed energy release rate into a material. Both theory and simulation reveal, however, that the intrinsic ductility of a material is unaffected by dynamics. The energy barrier to dislocation emission appears to be identical in quasi-static and dynamic conditions, and, in the overloaded situation, ductile crack tip behavior ultimately prevails since a single emission event can blunt and arrest the crack, preventing further cleavage. Thus, dynamics cannot embrittle a ductile material, and the origin of brittle failure in certain alloys (e.g., mild steels) appears unrelated to dynamic effects at the crack tip. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.