The stress field associated with a thin ellipsoidal cavity in an isotropic elastic medium with arbitrary tractions at distant boundaries is needed to generalize Griffith’s two-dimensional fracture criterion. Such a solution is given here. It is first formulated for a general ellipsoidal cavity having principal semiaxes a, b, and c, and then it is reduced to the specific case of a “flat” ellipsoid for which a and b are very much greater than c. An explicit solution of the general problem is possible but the results are somewhat unwieldy. The dominant terms of an asymptotic solution for small c/b, however, are shown to provide remarkably simple expressions for the stresses everywhere on the surface of the cavity. The applied normal stress parallel to the c axis and the shears lying in a plane perpendicular to it were found to produce surface stresses proportional to (b/c) × applied stress, with the amplification of other components of applied stress being negligible in comparison. Analytical expressions for the location and magnitude of the maximum surface stress are developed along with stress intensity factors for the elliptical crack (c = 0). Three dimensional effects due to ellipsoidal planform aspect ratio (b/a) and Poisson’s ratio are reported.

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