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Structure, processing and performance of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (IUPAC Technical Report). Part 4: sporadic fatigue crack propagation

  • Bucknall, Clive1
  • Altstädt, Volker2
  • Auhl, Dietmar3
  • Buckley, Paul4
  • Dijkstra, Dirk5
  • Galeski, Andrzej6
  • Gögelein, Christoph7
  • Handge, Ulrich A.8
  • He, Jiasong9
  • Liu, Chen-Yang9
  • Michler, Goerg10
  • Piorkowska, Ewa6
  • Slouf, Miroslav11
  • Vittorias, Iakovos12
  • Wu, Jun Jie13
  • 1 Cranfield University, UK , (United Kingdom)
  • 2 Universität Bayreuth, Germany , (Germany)
  • 3 Universität Berlin, Germany , (Germany)
  • 4 University of Oxford, UK , (United Kingdom)
  • 5 Covestro Deutschland AG, Germany , (Germany)
  • 6 Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland , (Poland)
  • 7 Arlanxeo Deutschland GmbH, Germany , (Germany)
  • 8 Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Max-Planck-Strasse 1 , (Germany)
  • 9 Laboratory of Polymer Science and Materials, China , (China)
  • 10 Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Germany , (Germany)
  • 11 Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry CAS, Czech Republic , (Czechia)
  • 12 Omya International AG, Baslerstrasse 42 , (Switzerland)
  • 13 Durham University, Stockton Road , (United Kingdom)
Published Article
Pure and Applied Chemistry
Walter de Gruyter GmbH
Publication Date
Aug 24, 2020
DOI: 10.1515/pac-2019-0408
De Gruyter


Fatigue tests were carried out on compression mouldings supplied by a leading polymer manufacturer. They were made from three batches of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) with weight-average relative molar masses, M ¯ W ${\overline{M}}_{\mathrm{W}}$ , of about 0.6 × 106, 5 × 106 and 9 × 106. In 10 mm thick compact tension specimens, crack propagation was so erratic that it was impossible to follow standard procedure, where crack-tip stress intensity amplitude, ΔK, is raised incrementally, and the resulting crack propagation rate, da/dN, increases, following the Paris equation, where a is crack length and N is number of cycles. Instead, most of the tests were conducted at fixed high values of ΔK. Typically, da/dN then started at a high level, but decreased irregularly during the test. Micrographs of fracture surfaces showed that crack propagation was sporadic in these specimens. In one test, at ΔK = 2.3 MPa m0.5, there were crack-arrest marks at intervals Δa of about 2 μm, while the number of cycles between individual growth steps increased from 1 to more than 1000 and the fracture surface showed increasing evidence of plastic deformation. It is concluded that sporadic crack propagation was caused by energy-dissipating crazing, which was initiated close to the crack tip under plane strain conditions in mouldings that were not fully consolidated. By contrast, fatigue crack propagation in 4 mm thick specimens followed the Paris equation approximately. The results from all four reports on this project are reviewed, and the possibility of using fatigue testing as a quality assurance procedure for melt-processed UHMWPE is discussed.

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