Fracture of elastomeric materials by crosslink failure

[+] Author and Article Information
Yunwei Mao

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

Lallit Anand

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

1Corresponding author.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4040100 History: Received January 26, 2018; Revised April 27, 2018


If an elastomeric material is subjected to sufficiently large deformations it eventually fractures. There are two typical micromechanisms of failure in such materials: chain scission and crosslink failure. The chain scission failure mode is mainly observed in polymers with strong covalent crosslinks, while the crosslink failure mode is observed in polymers with weak crosslinks. In two recent papers we have proposed a theory for progressive damage and rupture of polymers with strong covalent crosslinks [1,2]. In this paper we extend our previous framework and formulate a theory for modeling failure of elastomeric materials with weak crosslinks. We first introduce a model for the deformation of a single chain with weak crosslinks at each of its two ends using statistical mechanics arguments, and then upscale the model from a single chain to the continuum-level for a polymer network. Finally, we introduce a damage variable to describe the progressive damage and failure of polymer networks. A central feature of our theory is the recognition that the free energy of elastomers is not entirely entropic in nature, there is also an energetic contribution from the deformation of the backbone bonds in a chain and/or the crosslinks. For polymers with weak crosslinks this energetic contribution is mainly from the deformation of the crosslinks. It is this energetic part of the free energy which is the driving force for progressive damage and fracture of elastomeric materials.

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