In nonlinear applications of computational fracture mechanics, energy release rate techniques are used increasingly for computing stress intensity parameters of crack configurations. Recently, deLorenzi used the virtual-crack-extension method to derive an analytical expression for the energy release rate that is better suited for three-dimensional calculations than the well-known J-integral. Certain studies of fracture phenomena, such as pressurized-thermal-shock of cracked structures, require that crack tip parameters be determined for combined thermal and mechanical loads. A method is proposed here that modifies the isothermal formulation of deLorenzi to account for thermal strains in cracked bodies. This combined thermo-mechanical formulation of the energy release rate is valid for general fracture, including nonplanar fracture, and applies to thermo-elastic as well as deformation plasticity material models. Two applications of the technique are described here. In the first, semi-elliptical surface cracks in an experimental test vessel are analyzed under elastic-plastic conditions using the finite element method. The second application is a thick-walled test vessel subjected to combined pressure and thermal shock loading.

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