Fracture mechanics studies have characterized bone's resistance to fracture in terms of critical stress intensity factor and critical strain energy release rate measured at the onset of a fracture crack. This approach, although useful, provide a limited insight into fracture behavior of bone because, unlike classical brittle materials, bone is a microcracking solid that derives its resistance to fracture during the process of crack propagation from microfracture mechanisms occurring behind the advancing crack front. To address this shortfall, a crack propagation-based approach to measure bone toughness is described here and compared with crack initiation approach. Post hoc analyses of data from previously tested bovine and antler cortical bone compact specimens demonstrates that, in contrast to crack initiation approach, the crack propagation approach successfully identifies the superior toughness properties of red deer's antler cortical bone. Propagation-based slope of crack growth resistance curve is, therefore, a more useful parameter to evaluate cortical bone fracture toughness.
Keywords: Fracture toughness; Bone; R-curve; Microcracking; Fracture mechanics