The breaking point

It is said that a weak link determines the strength of the entire chain. Likewise, defects or small cracks in a solid material may ultimately determine the strength of that material – how well it will withstand various forces. For example, if force is exerted on a material containing a crack, large internal stresses concentrate on a small region near the crack’s edge. When this happens, a failure process is initiated, and the material might begin to fail around the edge of the crack, which could then propagate, leading to the ultimate failure of the material.

What, exactly, happens right around the edge of the crack, in the area in which those large stresses are concentrated? Prof. Eran Bouchbinder of the Weizmann…

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