Jay Fineberg, Steven P. Gross, M. Marder, and Harry L. Swinney
Department of Physics and Center for
Nonlinear Dynamics, The
Received 4 December 1990
Cracks in brittle materials have terminal velocities far below theoretical predictions. To address this problem we have investigated the propagation of cracks in a brittle plastic (polymethylmethacrylate). Velocity measurements with resolution an order of magnitude better than past experiments reveal the existence of a critical velocity at which the velocity begins to oscillate, the mean acceleration drops sharply, and a pattern is formed on the fracture surface. Thus the dynamics of cracks may be governed by a dynamical instability.