Calculation of adhesive and cohesive fracture toughness of a thin brittle coating on a polymer substrate
Determination of fracture parameters for brittle coatings with a sub-micron thickness is not a straightforward task. Since direct evaluation through testing with for instance a double cantilever beam or compact tension tests is hardly applicable due to the extreme thinness of the coating, methods such as the fragmentation test are used. When a structure with a brittle coating on a soft substrate is strained, the coating develops a crack pattern with parallel cracks perpendicular to the loading direction. The crack density (number of cracks per unit length) increases with strain up to a saturation value. Analytical formulas to model the fragmentation process exist but are limited to elastic materials. In this work finite element simulations are applied in order to deduce the adhesive and cohesive fracture properties of the interface and coating respectively from experimental data. The simulations include both the plastic behaviour of the substrate and debonding of the coating from the substrate, the latter achieved by application of a cohesive zone model. The main conclusion is that the plastic dissipation within the substrate must be correctly accounted for to get realistic interfacial and coating fracture toughness values.