Crack propagation in glass coatings under expanding spherical contact

Herzl Chai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The growth of transverse cracks under expanding spherical contact in a model system consisted of soda-lime glass bonded to a polycarbonate substrate is observed in situ from below or from the polished edge of the bilayer. Abrasion or chemical etching is employed on the coating surfaces to control the initial fracture. In the limit case of monoliths, the crack mouth becomes fully engulfed by the expanding contact, which results in a much steeper crack angle compared to the classical Hertzian cone case. As the coating thickness is reduced, flexure stresses are set in the coating which drive the cone crack to well away from the contact circle and initiate semi-elliptical-like radial cracks at the subsurface, right under the contact. Common to all three fracture modes is an initial unstable propagation phase following by a stable growth, with detrimental failure associated with severe damage to the top surface and/or delamination at the coating/substrate interface taking place at loads several times the fracture initiation loads. LEFM in conjunction with a large-strain FEM contact code is used to study the post-initiation fracture, with the crack path controlled by the principal stress trajectory or zero-mode II S.I.F. The analysis exposes the leading geometric and material parameters in each fracture mode, which may be useful in the design of bilayer structures for optimal mechanical performance. The well-known Auerbach law governing the initial fracture of monoliths is found to apply also to the bilayer crack systems within a certain range of the problem parameters. The numerical prediction for the crack profiles and the fracture envelopes generally collaborate well with the tests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-466
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Auerbach's law
  • Coating
  • Cone cracks
  • Indentation
  • Radial cracks


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