Crack patterns over uneven substrates†
Cracks in thin layers are influenced by what lies beneath them. From buried craters to crocodile skin, crack patterns are found over an enormous range of length scales. Regardless of absolute size, their substrates can dramatically influence how cracks form, guiding them in some cases, or shielding regions from them in others. Here we investigate how a substrate's shape affects the appearance of cracks above it, by preparing mud cracks over sinusoidally varying surfaces. We find that as the thickness of the cracking layer increases, the observed crack patterns change from wavy to ladder-like to isotropic. Two order parameters are introduced to measure the relative alignment of these crack networks, and, along with Fourier methods, are used to characterise the transitions between crack pattern types. Finally, we explain these results with a model, based on the Griffith criteria of fracture, that identifies the conditions for which straight or wavy cracks will be seen, and predicts how well-ordered the cracks will be. Our metrics and results can be applied to any situation where connected networks of cracks are expected, or found.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Open access articles from Soft Matter