Choice of standard fracture test for concrete and its statistical evaluation

Zdeněk P. Bažant, Qiang Yu, Goangseup Zi

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67 Citations (Scopus)


The main characteristics of the cohesive (or fictitious) crack model, which is now generally accepted as the best simple fracture model for concrete, are (aside from tensile strength) the fracture energies G F and G f corresponding to the areas under the complete softening stress-separation curve and under the initial tangent of this curve. Although these are two independent fracture characteristics which both should be measured, the basic (level I) standard test is supposed to measure only one. First, it is argued that the level I test should measure G f, for statistical reasons and because of relevance to prediction of maximum loads of structures. Second, various methods for measuring G f (or the corresponding fracture toughness), including the size effect method, the Jenq-Shah method (TPFM), and the Guinea et al. method, are discussed. The last is clearly the most robust and optimal because: (1) it is based on the exact solution of the bilinear cohesive crack model and (2) necessitates nothing more than measurement of the maximum loads of notched specimens of one size, supplemented by tensile strength measurements. Since the identification of material fracture parameters from test data involves two random variables, f′t (tensile strength) and G f, statistical regression should be applied. But regression is not feasible in the original Guinea et al.'s method. The present study proposes an improved version of Guinea et al.'s method which reduces the statistical problem to linear regression thanks to exploiting the systematic trend of size effect. This is made possible by noting that, according to the cohesive (or fictitious) crack model, the zero-size limit σNO of nominal strength σN of a notched specimen is independent of F f and thus can be easily calculated from the measured f′t. Then, the values of σNO obtained from the measured f′t values, together with the measured σN-values of notched specimens, are used in statistical regression based on the exact size effect curve calculated in advance from the cohesive crack model for the chosen specimen geometry. This has several advantages: (1) the linear regression is the most robust statistical approach; (2) the difficult question of statistical correlation between measured f′t and the nominal strength of notched specimens is bypassed, by virtue of knowing the size effect trend; (3) the resulting coefficient of variation of mean G f is very different and much more realistic than in the original version; (4) the coefficient of variation of the deviations of individual data from the regression line is very different from the coefficient of variation of individual notched test data and represents a much more realistic measure of scatter; and (5) possible accuracy improvements through the testing of notched specimens with different notch lengths and the same size, or notched specimens of different sizes, are in the regression setting straightforward. For engineering purposes where high accuracy is not needed, the simplest approach is the previously proposed zero-brittleness method, which can be regarded as a simplification of Guinea et al.' method. Finally, the errors of TPFM due to random variability of unloading-reloading properties from one concrete to another are quantitatively estimated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-337
Number of pages35
JournalInternational Journal of Fracture
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Dec
Externally publishedYes


  • Cohesive crack model
  • Concrete
  • Standard fracture test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Mechanics of Materials


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