Does glass break like metal?

by on 27 July, 2014


Most readers will agree that glass is a "brittle" material. It is our everyday experience (well, hopefully you don’t really test this every day!) that glass will break abruptly, without first deforming. It is also our experience that metals and metallic alloys behave very differently: they deform in an irreversible way before breaking. According to F. Celarie, S. Prades, D. Bonamy, L. Ferrero, E. Bouchaud, C. Guillot, C. Marliere, this understanding is incorrect. These experts report that, at the nanometer scale, glass breaks like metal. Their atomic force microscopy data reveal the presence of nanoscale damage cavities ahead of a stress-corrosion crack tip in glass. Their presence might explain the departure from linear elasticity observed in the vicinity of a crack tip in glass. Such a ductile fracture mechanism, widely observed in the case of metallic materials at the micrometer scale, might be also at the origin of the striking similarity of the morphologies of fracture surfaces of glass and metallic alloys at different length scales.

Their work was published in: Phys. Rev. Lett. 90 p.075504 (2003). A preprint can be downloaded from HERE