The role of temperature in the rigidity-controlled fracture of elastic networks†
We study the influence of thermal fluctuations on the fracture of elastic networks, via simulations of the uniaxial extension of central-force spring networks with varying rigidity. Studying their failure response, both at the macroscopic and microscopic level, we find that an increase in temperature corresponds to a more homogeneous stress (re)distribution and induces thermally activated failure of springs. As a consequence, the material strength decreases upon increasing temperature, the microscopic damage spreads over a larger area and a more ductile fracture process is observed. These effects are modulated by network rigidity and can therefore be tuned via the network connectivity and the rupture threshold of the springs. Knowledge of the interplay between temperature and rigidity improves our understanding of the fracture of elastic network materials, such as (biological) polymer networks, and can help to refine design principles for tough soft materials.