We explore the Mode I fracture toughness of a polymer gel containing a semi-infinite, growing crack. First, an expression is derived for the energy release rate within the linearized, small-strain setting. This expression reveals a crack tip velocity-independent toughening that stems from the poroelastic nature of polymer gels. Then, we establish a poroelastic cohesive zone model that allows us to describe the micromechanics of fracture in gels by identifying the role of solvent pressure in promoting poroelastic toughening. We evaluate the enhancement in the effective fracture toughness through asymptotic analysis. We confirm our theoretical findings by means of numerical simulations concerning the case of a steadily propagating crack. In broad terms, our results explain the role of poroelasticity and of the processes occurring in the fracturing region in promoting toughening of polymer gels.
- Crack propagation
- Polymer gel