Received 6 September 2006; published 21 March 2007
Experiments of pure tensile fracture in thin brittle gels reveal a new dynamic oscillatory instability whose onset occurs at a critical velocity, VC=0.87CS, where CS is the shear wave speed. Until VC, crack dynamics are well described by linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM). These extreme speeds are obtained by suppression of the microbranching instability, which occurs when sample thicknesses are made comparable to the minimum microbranch width. The wavelength of these sinusoidal oscillations is independent of the sample dimensions, thereby suggesting that these macroscopic effects are due to an intrinsic microscopic scale that is unrelated to LEFM.