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J Biomech. 2003 Apr;36(4):605-8.

A model of fracture testing of soft viscoelastic tissues.

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Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota, 420 Delaware Street S.E., Mayo Mail Code 289, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Fracture, or tear, toughness of soft tissues can be computed from the work of fracture divided by the area of new crack surface. For soft tissues without significant plastic deformation, total work, which can be measured experimentally, is composed of the sum of fracture and viscoelastic work. In order to deduce fracture work, a method is needed to estimate viscoelastic work. Two different methods (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 2000; J. Mater. Sci.: Mater. Med. 12 (2001) 327) have been proposed to estimate viscoelastic work in a fracture test of a soft tissue. The relative merits of these methods are unknown because the true viscoelastic work in an experiment is unknown. In order to characterize the accuracy of these methods, a theoretical model of crack propagation of viscoelastic soft tissue in a tensile test is presented, from which the exact viscoelastic work is calculated. The material is assumed to obey the standard linear solid model. The "exact" solution for the viscoelastic work during the fracture is computed from the model and compared with the work estimated by the two methods. It was found that both methods tend to underestimate the viscoelastic work done, and thus overestimate the fracture work and fracture toughness, although the errors were greater with the Fedewa method. It was further found that low displacement rates can give rise to a "snap" effect, where rapid crack growth can cause a disproportionate amount of viscoelastic energy to be dissipated during unloading. This modeling approach may be useful in evaluating other experimental methods of soft tissue fracture.

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