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Challenges in Continuum Modeling of Intergranular Fracture



Valerie R. Coffman, James P. Sethna


Intergranular fracture in polycrystals is often simulated by finite elements coupled to a cohesive-zone model for the interfaces, requiring cohesive laws for grain boundaries as a function of their geometry. We discuss three challenges in understanding intergranular fracture in polycrystals. First, 3D grain boundary geometries comprise a five dimensional space. Second, the energy and peak stress of grain boundaries have singularities for all commensurate grain boundaries, especially those with short repeat distances. Thirdly, fracture nucleation and growth depends not only upon the properties of grain boundaries, but in crucial ways on edges, corners, and triple junctions of even greater geometrical complexity. To address the first two challenges, we explore the physical underpinnings for creating functional forms to capture the heirarchical commensurability structure in the grain boundary properties. To address the last challenge, we demonstrate a method for atomistically extracting the fracture properties of geometrically complex local regions on the fly from within a finite element simulation.


finite elements, grain boundaries, molecular dynamics, multiscale modeling


Coffman, V. and Sethna, J. (2010), Challenges in Continuum Modeling of Intergranular Fracture, Strain, [online], (Accessed June 17, 2024)


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Created February 11, 2010, Updated February 19, 2017