The J-integral is widely used as a fracture parameter for elastic-plastic materials. The J-integral describes the intensity of the stress field close to the crack tip in a power-law hardening material under a set of well-known restrictions. This study investigates what happens when one of these restrictions is broken, namely the requirement for no unloading to occur.
In this work, a centre-cracked plate is subjected to a single cycle of load in which unloading occurs. A remote tensile stress is applied, then released, then applied again up to and beyond its initial magnitude. The J-integral at each step of the analysis is calculated using finite element analysis. Its validity as a fracture parameter at each step is discussed with the aid of results from a strip yield analysis of the same problem. The relevance of the results in the context of structural integrity assessment is discussed.