Cellulose-based materials are increasingly finding applications in technology due to their sustainability and biodegradability. The sensitivity of cellulose fiber networks to environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity is well known. Yet, there is an incomplete understanding of the dependence of the fracture toughness of cellulose networks on environmental conditions. In the current study, we assess the effect of moisture content on the out-of-plane (i.e., z-dir.) fracture toughness of a particular cellulose network, specifically Whatman cellulose filter paper. Experimental measurements are performed at 16% RH along the desorption isotherm and 23, 37, 50, 75% RH along the adsorption isotherm using out-of-plane tensile tests and double cantilever beam (DCB) tests. Cohesive zone modeling and finite element simulations are used to extract quantitative properties that describe the crack growth behavior. Overall, the fracture toughness of filter paper decreased with increasing humidity. Additionally, a novel model is developed to capture the high peak and sudden drop in the experimental force measurement caused by the existence of an initiation region. This model is found to be in good agreement with experimental data. The relative effect of each independent cohesive parameter is explored to better understand the cohesive zone-based humidity dependence model. The methods described here may be applied to study rupture of other fiber networks with weak bonds.
Spiewak, Russell; Vankayalapati, Gnana Saurya; Considine, John M.; Turner, Kevin T.; Purohit, Prashant K. 2022. Humidity dependence of fracture toughness of cellulose fibrous networks. Engineering Fracture Mechanics. 264(1): 108330. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.engfracmech.2022.108330.