Universality class of the fragmentation of plastic materials
We carry out an experimental and theoretical study of the fragmentation of polymeric materials by impacting polypropylene (PP) particles of spherical shape against a hard wall. Our experiments revealed that the mass distribution of fragments has a power law behavior with an exponent close to 12, which is significantly different from the known exponents of three-dimensional bulk materials. To understand the fragmentation of plastic materials we developed a three-dimensional discrete element model where the sample is represented as a random packing of spherical particles connected by elastic beams. The model reproduces both the large permanent deformation of the polymer during impact, and the novel value of the mass distribution exponent. Computer simulations revealed that the dominance of shear in the crack formation and the healing of compressed crack surfaces are the key features which give rise to the emergence of the novel universality class of fragmentation phenomena.