• fracture mechanics;
  • soil water suction;
  • crack extension;
  • CTOA;
  • J integral;
  • fractography

[1] The mechanics of crack formation and the influence of soil stress history were described using the crack tip opening angle (CTOA) measured with fractography. Two soils were studied: a model soil consisting of 40% Ca-bentonite and 60% fine silica sand and a remolded paddy soil with similar clay content and mineralogy. Fracture testing used deep-notch bend specimens formed by molding soils at the liquid limit into rectangular bars, equilibrating to soil water suction ranging from 5 kPa to 50 kPa (with some 50 kPa specimens wetted to 5 kPa), and inserting a crack 0.4× specimen thickness. Bend tests at a constant displacement rate of 1 mm min−1 provided data on applied force and load point displacement. The growth and geometry of the cracks were quantified from a series of images to determine the CTOA. Modulus of rupture, evaluated from the peak force, increased as water suction increased. However, rewetting did not alter the peak stress from the 50 kPa value, indicating that shrinkage-induced consolidation was more important than the soil water suction at the onset of testing. CTOA measured during stable crack growth decreased with drying. CTOA decreased even further when specimens equilibrated initially to 50 kPa were rewetted to 5 kPa. These results suggested that CTOA was primarily governed by the stiffness, although rewetting probably altered the capillary stresses in advance of the crack tip. Our future work will combine CTOA with a model that couples hydrological and mechanical processes to take into account the dependency of CTOA on the soil water regime so that crack propagation in soil can be predicted.