Fundamental mechanisms of polymer damage and fracture across scales

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Soft synthetic and biological polymers often inherit their mechanical properties from their underlying network structures. These networks can be extremely diverse in terms of the nature of their components (chains, filaments, and cross-links), and are usually described by a topology and architecture that could span several length scales. Consequently, polymer damage and fracture, while complex, may be fundamentally understood based on the nonaffine, multiscale deformation of the underlying network.

This collection aims to overview the state of the art in understanding the cascade of mechanisms across the scales that are eventually responsible for final material failure. Special emphasis is given to the nature of the mechanism occurring at a specific length and time scales, as well as how it may interact synergistically with other mechanisms, either at a lower or a higher length scales) to trigger an unstable cascade of events leading to material failure. These could include, for instance, mechanisms of chain and cross-link scission, chain di-entanglement, cavity nucleation and growth, shear localization.

In this focus issue, we bring together interdisciplinary research at the interface of physics, polymer chemistry and mechanics to present the most recent advances, outstanding challenges and future directions in studying damage and fracture in soft and biological polymers.

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Fundamental Mechanisms of Polymer Damage and Fracture Across Scales


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