A new optical method, Stress Intensity Factor Tracer (SIFT), has been developed. The device measures continuously the real-time stress intensity factor variation, K1(t), of a moving crack tip using a single, stationary photodetector. The method uses the fact that any variation in K1(t) leads to a change in the intensity of light, I(t), impinging on a fixed finite area, Γ, on the focal plane. The focal plane is defined as the plane on which initially parallel light rays transmitted through a transparent fracture specimen (or reflected from the surface of an opaque specimen) are focused by a converging lens. Provided that the light detecting area, Γ, excludes the focal point, a simple relation, I(t) =B[K1(t)]4/3, has been obtained for a K1-dominant field. The constant, B, is a product of several experimental parameters including a “shape factor” of the sampling area, Γ, where I(t) is measured. A significant feature of this method is that I(t) is independent of the location of the crack tip in the illuminated zone on the specimen plane. The technique may therefore be applied to dynamic fracture studies without using high-speed photography. Only the constant, B, becomes a function of crack velocity for the dynamic K1-field. This paper presents the theoretical development of the SIFT method, including the wave optics of the system. Experimental results supporting the theory are included.

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