Fracture toughness of wet and dry particulate materials comprised of colloidal sized particles: role of plastic deformation†
This work demonstrates a method of measuring the fracture toughness of particulate materials comprised of colloidal sized particles over a wide range of saturation. Diametral compression of cylinders containing flaws of controlled length was used to measure the mode I fracture toughness. The effect of degree of saturation on the fracture toughness of slip cast ceramic grade alumina (d50 = 0.7 μm) was investigated. Dry powder compacts have significantly lower fracture toughness than when the powder compact is nearly fully saturated. All observations are consistent with the fracture mechanism being predominantly brittle for the dry samples but predominantly ductile in the nearly saturated samples. The additional dissipation that occurs during the ductile fracture of the nearly saturated samples is due to plastic deformation in front of the crack tip. This well-known mechanism for toughening in metals has been quantified for the first time in soft matter. Analysis of the results indicates that the size of the plastic dissipation zone is more than an order of magnitude larger in the nearly saturated materials compared to the dry material. Understanding the fracture mechanisms that control the propagation of cracks through saturated, partially saturated and dry particulate materials comprised of colloidal sized particles provides additional insight into understanding drying cracks in paint, other coatings, ceramics and water treatment sludge.