Abstract: This work aims to assess the fracture of U-notched limestone samples subjected to mixed mode I?+?II loading conditions with a predominant mode I influence, both at room temperature and at 250 °C. This analysis is based on the use of the Theory of the Critical Distances, and more specifically on the use of the Line Method, considering both an analytical and a numerical approach for the definition of the stress fields. An experimental campaign of almost 400 three-point bending tests has been performed as a basis for the fracture assessment of the limestone, using Single Edge Notched Bend (SENB) specimens with notch radii varying from 0.15 mm up to 15 mm, different temperature conditions and variable loading positions. The Theory of Critical Distances has successfully been applied to study the experimental results. The analytical and numerical stress fields for pure mode I fracture assessments provide similar accurate results both at 23 °C and 250 °C. Similarly, the mixed mode (I?+?II) fracture assessments allow the critical distance () to be characterised for different mode mixities (), using the stress field around the notch tip obtained from the numerical models. Comparing the values of the critical distance against the mode mixity in isolation, a slight decrease of is observed as it approaches pure mode I conditions ( = 1). However, if the results are analysed separately for each notch radius, seems to be relatively constant with . In parallel, a certain influence of the notch radius on the critical distance is appreciated, which shows an increment both at 23 °C and 250 °C.
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