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88 y Structures ‘The dislocation mechanism,* which was originally postulated by Sir Geoffrey Taylor in 1934, has been the subject of intensive academic research over the last thirty years. It turns out to be an ‘extraordinarily subtle and complicated affair. What takes place inside so apparently simple thing asa piece of metal Seems to be quite as clever as many of the mechanisms in living biological tissues. Yer the funny thing is that this clever mechanism cannot possibly be purposive, if only because Nature has nothing, so to speak, to gain from it, since she never makes any structural use of ‘metals, which very seldom occur native in the metallic state any- way. However this may be, dislocations in metals have been of ‘enormous benefit to engineers and might almost have been in vented for their benefit, since they not only result in metals being. tough butalso enable them to be forged and worked and hardened. Artificial plastics and fibrous composites have other work of fracture mechanisins which are quite different from those in metals effective. Biological materials seem to have developed methods of achieving high works of fracture which are very cunning indoed. That in timber, for instance, is exceptionally efficient, and the work of fracture of wood is, weight for weight, better than that of most steels.t Let us now go on to discuss how the strain energy in a resilient structure manages to get turned into work of fracture. If you like, ‘What is the real reason why things break ? Grifith - or how to live with cracks and stress concentrations Ony rollins better than pichin’ w"superfeeial cracks inthe ail-shaft. ‘Rudyard Kipling, Bread upon the Waters (1895) ‘As we said at the beginning of this chapter, all technological structures contain cracks and scratches and holes and other do- See The New Science of Strong Materials, Chapters 3 and 9, for an clo- ‘mentary account ofthe dislocation mechaniam fora fuller description see {for instance, The Mechanical Properties of Matter by Sir Alan Cotte Jahn Wiley, 1964 ete). ‘Asai, see The New Science of Strong Miterials (second edition), Chapter 8 ‘Strain energy and modern fracture mechanics 89 fects; ships and bridges and aircraft wings are liable to all sorts of accidental dents and abrasions and we have to learn to live with them as safely as may be, in spite of the fact that, according to Inglis, the local stress at many of these defects may be well above the official breaking stress of the material, How and why we are generally able to live with these high Stresses without catastrophe was propounded by A. A. Griffith (1893-1963) in a paper which he published in 1920, just twenty- five years after Kipling’s splendid story about a crack. Since Griffith was only @ young man in 1920, practically nobody paid any attention. In any case Griffith's approach to the whole prob- Jem of fracture by way of energy, rather than force and stress, was Not only new at the time but was quite foreign to the climate of engineering thinking, then and for many years afterwards, Even nowadays too many engineers do not really understand what Griffith's theory is all about, ‘What Griffith was saying was this. Looked at from the energy point of view, Inglis's stress concentration is simply a mechamism ike a zip-fastener) for converting strain energy into fracture ‘energy, just as an electric motor is simply a mechanism for eon- verting electrical energy into mechanical work ot a tin-opener is simply a mechanism for using muscular energy to cut through a tin, None of these mechanisms will work unless itis continually ‘supplied with energy of the right sort. The stress concentration is, ‘quite good at its job but, ifitis to keep on prising the atoms of a ‘material apart, then it needs to be kept fed with strain energy. If the supply of strain energy dries up, the fracture process stops. ‘Now consider a piece of elastic material which is stretched and then clamped at both ends so that, forthe present, no mechanical ‘energy can get in or out. Thus we have closed system containing. just so much strain energy. Tha crack is to propagate through this stretched material then the necessary work of fracture will have to be paid for in energy ‘and the terms are strictly cash. If, for convenience, we consider ‘our specimen to be a plate of material one unit thick, then the energy bill will be W/L where WV — work of fracture and L = length of crack. Note that this is an energy debt, an item on the debit ‘ide of the energy account, although as a matter of fact no credit