Fatigue crack propagation in high‐density polyethylene

J. T. Yeh, J. Runt

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An investigation of the influence of crystalline microstructure on fatigue crack propagation (FCP) in high‐density polyethylene (HDPE) is reported. Various thermal histories were used to generate samples with the same crystallinity and supermolecular structure for three different molecular weight HDPEs. Estimation of tie chain densities were obtained from measurements of brittle fracture stress and predicted from the estimated chain dimensions of the polymers using the modified version of the approach originally taken by Huang and Brown. A significant decrease in FCP resistance and a clear transition to a more brittle fracture surface was observed with decreasing molecular weight. Detailed studies of damaged zones preceding the growing crack show a transition to a more highly branched crack structure for those samples associated with a higher FCP resistance. These results strongly suggest that the branched damaged zone structure improves the FCP resistance by enlarging and blunting the crack tip and, therefore, consuming more energy during the fatigue crack propagation. Additional efforts were made to prepare samples with the same crystallinity and tie chain density, but different supermolecular structure. However, in contrast to reports in the literature, no significant difference in FCP resistance was observed for specimens with different average spherulite sizes. This is probably because the propagating crack front is preceded by a significant zone of plastic deformation and is not expected to directly encounter the spherulites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-388
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Polymer Science Part B: Polymer Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 15 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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