Crack-Interface Grain Bridging as a Fracture Resistance I, Mechanism in Ceramics: I, Experimental Study on Alumina


  • Presented at the 88th Annual Meeting of the American Ceramic Society, Chicago, IL, April 30, 1986 (Basic Science Division, Paper No. 166–B–86). April 16, 1986;

  • Supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research; support for P. L. S. provided by an NRC Postdoctoral Fellowship and support for Y.-W.M. provided by the NBS Guest Worker Program.


Direct microscopic evidence is presented in support of an explanation of R-curve behavior in monophase ceramics by grain-localized bridging across the newly formed crack interface. In situ observations are made of crack growth in tapered cantilever beam and indented flexure specimens of a coarsegrained alumina. The fractures are observed to be highly stable, typical of a material with a strongly increasing resistance characteristic, but are discontinuous at the microstructural level. Associated with this discontinuity is the appearance of overlapping segments in the surface fracture trace around bridging grains; the mean spacing of such “activity sites” along the trace is about 2 to 5 grain diameters. These segments link up with the primary crack beneath the specimen surface, and continue to evolve toward rupture of the bridge as fracture proceeds. The bridges remain active at large distances, of order 100 grain diameters or more, behind the crack tip. Scanning electron microscopy of some of the bridging sites demonstrates that secondary (interface-adjacent) microfracture and frictional tractions are important elements in the bridge separation process. Evidence is sought, but none found, for some of the more popular alternative models of toughening, notably frontal-zone microcracking and cracktip/internal-stress interaction. It is suggested that the crackinterface bridging mechanism may be a general phenomenon in nontransforming ceramics.