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A Fracture Mechanics Approach to Estimate Fracture-Induced Unstable Failure in Steel Structures

Unstable fracture failure creates critical safety concerns in engineering structures subjected to extreme natural or artificial actions. Despite the qualitative requirements prescribed in the prevailing engineering standards on the material ductility, fracture initiated unstable failure has led to collapse of a number of steel structures. This paper investigates the fracture failure in steel structures through the fracture mechanics perspective, by first examining experimental and hybrid approaches in quantifying the fracture resistance in small-scale material specimens. This study extends subsequently the experimental and hybrid approaches to quantify the fracture resistance in large-scale structural components made of circular hollow section pipes with circumferential welds. Based on the combined experimental and numerical study for the material specimens and that for the structural components, this paper presents an approach to modify the load-deformation responses of critical structural components to reflect the effect of ductile crack extension and the subsequent unstable fracture failure. The benchmark analysis validates the presented approach against experimental results on both large-scale structural components and steel structures.

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