As the traditional ΔK‐based fatigue crack propagation (FCP) law has recently been elucidated by Chow and his group [1–7] to be inadequate for a complete description of fatigue cracking, we examine in this investigation the applicability of a unified formulation for characterizing FCP of both metals and nonmetals. We start by defining a new cyclic J‐integral, ΔJ, which, under the confines of linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM), is equivalent to the range of elastic strain energy release rate, ΔG. ΔJ (or ΔG) is used as a proper criterion for FCP so long as the crack does not extend during the unloading portion of one load reversal. ΔJ (or ΔG) as such is also interpreted as the source supplier for the energy flow rate dissipated on crack‐tip cyclic plastic deformations. It is then assumed that, under fixed test conditions, the minimum specific work of fracture required for fatigue crack initiation, ΔJth, is a material property independent of the load ratio R. Fatigue threshold values thus predicted are correlated favorably with experimental measurements. For fatigue crack propagation, a unified formulation is subsequently derived from the thermodynamic theory of irreversible processes with the cracked surface area taken as an internal variable together with the assumption that the rate of energy dissipated on FCP depends on ΔJ only. It is noted that, in addition to ΔJ, the role played by (JcJmax) is also required in the unified FCP law. Applicability of the law for producing a master FCP diagram is finally examined using FCP data of both metals and polymers, including mild steel, aluminium alloys, PMMA, PVC, short fiber composites, and adhesives.

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