Cohesive zone models: A critical review of traction-separation relationships across fracture surfaces

Kyoungsoo Park, Glaucio H. Paulino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the fundamental aspects in cohesive zone modeling is the definition of the traction-separation relationship across fracture surfaces, which approximates the nonlinear fracture process. Cohesive traction-separation relationships may be classified as either nonpotential-based models or potential-based models. Potential-based models are of special interest in the present review article. Several potential-based models display limitations, especially for mixed-mode problems, because of the boundary conditions associated with cohesive fracture. In addition, this paper shows that most effective displacement-based models can be formulated under a single framework. These models lead to positive stiffness under certain separation paths, contrary to general cohesive fracture phenomena wherein the increase of separation generally results in the decrease of failure resistance across the fracture surface (i.e., negative stiffness). To this end, the constitutive relationship of mixed-mode cohesive fracture should be selected with great caution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number061002
JournalApplied Mechanics Reviews
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2011


  • cohesive zone model
  • constitutive relationship
  • energy release rate
  • fracture
  • mixed-mode
  • potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering


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