Document Type


Date of Original Version



Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics


We analyze the nucleation and propagation of shear cracks along nonplanar, kinked, and branched fault paths corresponding to the configurations used in recent laboratory fracture studies by Rousseau and Rosakis (2003, 2009). The aim is to reproduce numerically those shear rupture experiments and from that provide an insight into processes which are active when a crack, initially propagating in mode II along a straight path, interacts with a bend in the fault or a branching junction. The experiments involved impact loading of thin Homalite‐100 (a photoelastic polymer) plates, which had been cut along bent or branched paths and weakly glued back together everywhere except along a starter notch near the impact site. Strain gage recordings and high‐speed photography of isochromatic lines provided characterization of the transient deformation fields associated with the impact and fracture propagation. We found that dynamic explicit 2‐D plane‐stress finite element analyses with a simple linear slip‐weakening description of cohesive and frictional strength of the bonded interfaces can reproduce the qualitative rupture behavior past the bend and branch junctions in most cases and reproduce the principal features revealed by the photographs of dynamic isochromatic line patterns. The presence of a kink or branch can cause an abrupt change in rupture propagation velocity. Additionally, the finite element results allow comparison between total slip accumulated along the main and inclined fault segments. We found that slip along inclined faults can be substantially less than slip along the main fault, and the amount depends on the branch angle and kink or branch configuration.