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Cracking a Tough Nut* with a big Computer

  • Farid F. Abraham (a1), D. Schneider, B. Land, D. Lifka, J. Skovira, J. Gerner and M. Rosenkrantzt (a2)...


We have simulated the dynamical failure of three-dimensional notched solids under tension using molecular dynamics and up to 100 million atoms. We discovered a dynamical brittle-to-ductile transition in the rapid cleavage of rare-gas solids when the crack velocity approaches one-third of the Rayleigh sound speed. At this transition, the crack tip has already begun to roughen on the atomic scale. This suggests that the brittle crack undergoes a dynamic instability which immediately leads to the initiation of plastic failure by the spontaneous emission and proliferation of dislocations and crack arrest.



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NUT: nanocrystal under tension. We make note of P-G. de Gennes comment “…refrain from immediately resorting to a jackhammer to break open a hazelnut without first checking for an incipient crack on the surface of the shell.” in Fragile Objects (Copernicus, NY, 1996).



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1. Kelly, A. and Macmillan, N. H., Strong Solids, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1986, p. 10.
2. Rice, J. R. and Thomson, R., Phil. Mag. 29, 73 (1974).
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4. Abraham, F. F., Brodbeck, D., Rudge, W. E. and Xu, X-P., J. Mech. Phys. Solids, to appear.
5. Abraham, F. F., Schneider, D., Land, B., Lifka, D., Skovira, J., Gerner, J., Rosenkrantz, M., to be published.
6. Lynden-Bell, R. M., Science, 263, 1704 (1994).
7. Klein, M. L. and Venables, J. A., Rare Gas Solids, Vol 1, Academic Press, London, 1976.
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9. Abraham, F. F., Phys. Rev. Lett., 77, 869 (1996).
10. Plimpton, S., J. Comp. Phys. 117, 1 (1995).
11. Lawn, B., Hockey, B. and Wiederhorn, S., J. Mater. Sci., 15, 1207 (1980); Fig. 15a.


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