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An overview of the literature for the last twenty years on the fracture mechanics of unidirectional fibre reinforced polymer composites is presented. Pure mode (I, II, and III) as well as mixed mode longitudinal cracks (i.e., cracks that propagate along the fibres) are considered mainly. It is shown that the strain energy released rate is the most widely used parameter for fracture toughness characterization. Various solutions for determination of the strain energy release rate in composites using linear-elastic fracture mechanics are presented. Studies on fracture in composite sandwich structures are reviewed, too. Some analyses of damages and their influence on fracture behaviour also are considered. Topical problems of composite fracture mechanics are formulated.
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Research in the field of fracture mechanics and determination of material characteristics are used for practical purposes, such as the assessment of static and dynamic strength of structural components, analysis of their fatigue life or extending the life span of their operation. A structural component, considered to be safe from fatigue cracking point of view, was investigated and results were presented in this article. In particular, an analysis was made to determine the stress intensity factor for the cracked wing flap construction, based on static and fatigue tests, using the Irwin-Kies theory. The flap with a service crack was subjected to fatigue tests with a load similar to the one registered during flight measurements. The flap without a service crack was subjected to static tests, after cutting the cracks of specified lengths and shapes (similar to the service crack) in the skin of the flap. The article presents changing the length of the flap crack in subsequent load cycles, change in the maximum values of force and the crack opening displacement in subsequent load cycles, dependence of P-COD in the first and second stage of fatigue testing of the wing flap, dependence of the wing flap compliance on the length of the crack and experimentally determined dependence for wing flap. The occurrence of a flap crack up to approximately 230 mm does not cause a significant growth of the stress intensity factor.
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