14 June 2022
Environmental Stress Cracking of High-Density Polyethylene Applying Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics
The crack propagation rate of environmental stress cracking was studied on high-density polyethylene compact tension specimens under static loading. Selected environmental liquids are distilled water, 2 wt% aqueous Arkopal N100 solution, and two model liquid mixtures, one based on solvents and one on detergents, representing stress cracking test liquids for commercial crop protection products. The different surface tensions and solubilities, which affect the energetic facilitation of void nucleation and craze development, are studied. Crack growth in surface-active media is strongly accelerated as the solvents induce plasticization, followed by strong blunting significantly retarding both crack initiation and crack propagation. The crack propagation rate for static load as a function of the stress intensity factor within all environments is found to follow the Paris–Erdogan law. Scanning electron micrographs of the fracture surface highlight more pronounced structures with both extensive degrees of plasticization and reduced crack propagation rate, addressing the distinct creep behavior of fibrils. Additionally, the limitations of linear elastic fracture mechanisms for visco-elastic polymers exposed to environmental liquids are discussed.