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Experimental investigation on crack growth in pre-notched concrete beams
1  Dept. of Structural, Geotechnical and Building Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Corso Duca degli Abruzzi 24 – 10129 Torino, Italy


It is well-known that failure of unreinforced, pre-notched concrete beams in bending is mainly governed by the tensile strength (“ductile” behaviour) or by the fracture toughness (brittle behaviour) depending on the geometrical scale (beam size), and the value of the relative notch depth. In particular, relatively large beams made of high-strength concrete and with a small relative notch depth, show a brittle structural behaviour (unstable crack propagation); whereas relatively small beams made of low-strength concrete and with a large relative notch depth, show a relatively ductile structural behaviour (stable crack propagation). In this contribution, the damage progress, due to crack formation and propagation, in unreinforced, pre-notched concrete beam specimens, tested in three-point bending, is analysed by the Acoustic Emission (AE) and Digital Image Correlation (DIC) techniques. Beams with rectangular cross-section were considered. A relative notch depth (a/d) equal to 0.5 is assumed in all cases. The loading process was operated by controlling the vertical displacement. The specimens were instrumented by four transducers measuring the vertical displacements in correspondence to the supports and at mid-span, and the Crack Mouth Opening Displacement (CMOD). In addition, two AE transducers were located near the notch to acquire the AE signals originated by material damage. Moreover, the evolution of the deformation process was monitored around the notch by a DIC system, therefore obtaining the time evolution of strains. By analysing the acquired data, a correlation between the AE signals registered and the displacements/strains measured at several points was looked for. Furthermore, the fracture energy of each specimen was evaluated, according to RILEM recommendation, based on the measured load–deflection curves. Scale effects on fracture energy, bending strength, and AE energy per unit area were investigated.

Keywords: pre-notched concrete beams; crack propagation; acoustic emission; digital image correlation.