This paper presents an investigation of interlaminar crack growth behavior in fiber-reinforced composites subjected to fatigue loading. In the experimental phase of the study, interlaminar crack propagation rates and mechanisms were determined for the cases of various geometries, laminate parameters and cyclic stress levels. An advanced singular hybrid-stress finite element method was used in conjunction with the experimental results to examine the local crack-tip behavior and to characterize the crack propagation during fatigue. Results elucidate the basic nature of the cyclic delamination damage and relate the interlaminar crack growth rate to the range of mixed-mode crack-tip stress intensity factors. The study provides fundamental insight into the problem, reveals several important features of the interlaminar fatigue failure, and should be of practical importance in selection, testing and design of composite materials.

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