As a result of matrix cracking in fiber reinforced composites, fracture planforms assume a wide variation of profiles due to the fact that fiber bridging strongly affects the behavior of local crack fronts. This observation raises the question on the legitimacy of commonly used penny-shaped crack solutions when applied to fiber reinforced composites. Accordingly, investigation of the effects of fracture front profiles on mechanical responses is the thrust of this paper. We start with the solution of a penny-shaped crack in a unidirectional, fiber reinforced composite, which demonstrates necessarity of considering wavy fracture fronts in fiber reinforced composites. A theoretical framework for fiber reinforced composites with irregular fracture fronts due to matrix cracking is then established via a micromechanics model. The difference between small crack-size matrix cracking and large crack-size matrix cracking is investigated in detail. It is shown that the bridging effect is insignificant when matrix crack size is small and solution of effective property are obtained using Mori-Tanaka’s method by treating cracks and reinforcing fibers as distinct, but interacting phases. When the crack size becomes large, the bridging effects has to be taken into consideration. With bridging tractions obtained in consistency with the micromechanics solution, and corresponding crack energy backed out, the effective properties are obtained through a modification of standard Mori-Tanaka’s treatment of multiphase composites. Analytical solutions show that the generalization of a crack density of a penny-shaped planform is insufficient in describing the effective responses of fiber-reinforced composites with matrix cracking. Approximate solutions that account for the effects of the irregularity of crack planforms are given in closed forms for several irregular crack planforms, including cracks of cross rectangle, polygon and rhombus.

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