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Transition of Mode II Cracks from Sub-Rayleigh to Intersonic Speeds in the Presence of Favorable Heterogeneity

Yi Liu, & Nadia Lapusta

Published 2008, SCEC Contribution #1090

Understanding sub-Rayleigh-to-intersonic transition of mode II cracks is a fundamental problem in fracture mechanics with important practical implications for earthquake dynamics and seismic radiation. In the Burridge–Andrews mechanism, an intersonic daughter crack nucleates, for sufficiently high prestress, at the shear stress peak traveling with the shear wave speed in front of the main crack. We find that sub-Rayleigh-to-intersonic transition and sustained intersonic propagation occurs in a number of other models that subject developing cracks to intersonic loading fields. We consider a spontaneously expanding sub-Rayleigh crack (or main crack) which advances, along a planar interface with linear slip-weakening friction, towards a place of favorable heterogeneity, such as a preexisting subcritical crack or a small patch of higher prestress (similar behavior is expected for a small patch of lower static strength). For a range of model parameters, a secondary dynamic crack nucleates at the heterogeneity and acquires intersonic speeds due to the intersonic stress field propagating in front of the main crack. Transition to intersonic speeds occurs directly at the tip of the secondary crack, with the tip accelerating rapidly to values numerically equal to the Rayleigh wave speed and then abruptly jumping to an intersonic speed. Models with favorable heterogeneity achieve intersonic transition and propagation for much lower prestress levels than the ones implied by the Burridge–Andrews mechanism and have transition distances that depend on the position of heterogeneity. We investigate the dependence of intersonic transition and subsequent crack propagation on model parameters and discuss implications for earthquake dynamics.

Liu, Y., & Lapusta, N. (2008). Transition of Mode II Cracks from Sub-Rayleigh to Intersonic Speeds in the Presence of Favorable Heterogeneity. Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids, 56(1), 25-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jmps.2007.06.005.