The aim of this paper was to assess the suitability of the sandwiched beam in three-point bending as a technique for determining fracture toughness and R-curve behaviour of nuclear graphite using small beam specimens. Surface displacements of the cracked beam specimen were measured using Electronic Speckle Pattern Interferometry (ESPI) and Image Correlation in order to accurately monitor crack propagation and frictional contact between the test specimen and the sandwiching beams. The results confirmed that solutions based on the simple beam theory could overestimate the fracture toughness of graphite. Finite element analysis using a Continuum Damage Mechanics failure model indicated that both friction and shape of the notch played an important part in providing resistance to crack growth. Inclusion of these factors and the use of more accurate load vs. crack length curves derived from the FE model would provide a satisfactory measure of fracture toughness in small beam specimens under such a loading configuration. The particular graphite tested, IG-110, showed a decrease in fracture toughness with increasing crack length.
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The financial support of the Health and Safety Executive through Contract No. NUC/56/60/5 is gratefully acknowledged. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Health and Safety Commission/Executive.