Cavitation in elastomeric solids: I - A defect-growth theory

Oscar Lopez-Pamies, Martín I. Idiart, Toshio Nakamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is by now well established that loading conditions with sufficiently large triaxialities can induce the sudden appearance of internal cavities within elastomeric (and other soft) solids. The occurrence of such instabilities, commonly referred to as cavitation, can be attributed to the growth of pre-existing defects into finite sizes. This paper introduces a new theory to study the phenomenon of cavitation in soft solids that: (i) allows to consider general 3D loading conditions with arbitrary triaxiality, (ii) applies to large (including compressible and anisotropic) classes of nonlinear elastic solids, and (iii) incorporates direct information on the initial shape, spatial distribution, and mechanical properties of the underlying defects at which cavitation can initiate. The basic idea is to first cast cavitation in elastomeric solids as a homogenization problem of nonlinear elastic materials containing random distributions of zero-volume cavities, or defects. This problem is then addressed by means of a novel iterated homogenization procedure, which allows to construct solutions for a specific, yet fairly general, class of defects. These include solutions for the change in size of the defects as a function of the applied loading conditions, from which the onset of cavitation - corresponding to the event when the initially infinitesimal defects suddenly grown into finite sizes - can be readily determined. In spite of the generality of the proposed approach, the relevant calculations amount to solving tractable HamiltonJacobi equations, in which the initial size of the defects plays the role of time and the applied load plays the role of space. When specialized to the case of hydrostatic loading conditions, isotropic solids, and defects that are vacuous and isotropically distributed, the proposed theory recovers the classical result of Ball (1982) for radially symmetric cavitation. The nature and implications of this remarkable connection are discussed in detail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1464-1487
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Bifurcation
  • Finite strain
  • Homogenization methods
  • Instabilities
  • Microstructures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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