A comparison of the elastic-plastic crack-tip fields of large and small fatigue cracks has been made using the ΔJ-integral approach. Using experimental strain and displacement range measurements obtained by means of the stereoimaging technique, the ΔJ-integral has been computed for an aluminum alloy containing either large or small fatigue cracks, by performing line-contour integration along a variety of rectangular paths around the crack tip. These calculations reveal that for both large and small cracks the ΔJ-integral is path-dependent, and that the value of ΔJ increases with decreasing distance from the crack tip. Using an average local ΔJ or one estimated from the CTOD, the enhanced crack growth rates associated with small fatigue cracks can be explained on the basis of the large average ΔJ-integral within the cyclic plastic zone. The effect of crack closure on the computed local ΔJ (or ΔK) and crack growth is discussed.

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