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This paper proposes an adaptive atomistic- continuum numerical method for quasi-static crack growth. The phantom node method is used to model the crack in the continuum region and a molecular statics model is used near the crack tip. To ensure self-consistency in the bulk, a virtual atom cluster is used to model the material of the coarse scale. The coupling between the coarse scale and fine scale is realized through ghost atoms. The ghost atom positions are interpolated from the coarse scale solution and enforced as boundary conditions on the fine scale. The fine scale region is adaptively enlarged as the crack propagates and the region behind the crack tip is adaptively coarsened. An energy criterion is used to detect the crack tip location. The triangular lattice in the fine scale region corresponds to the lattice structure of the (111) plane of an FCC crystal. The Lennard-Jones potential is used to model the atom–atom interactions. The method is implemented in two dimensions. The results are compared to pure atomistic simulations; they show excellent agreement.

One major research focus in the Material Science and Engineering Community in the past decade has been to obtain a more fundamental understanding on the phenomenon 'material failure'. Such an understanding is critical for engineers and scientists developing new materials with higher strength and toughness, developing robust designs against failure, or for those concerned with an accurate estimate of a component's design life. Defects like cracks and dislocations evolve at
nano scales and influence the macroscopic properties such as strength, toughness and ductility of a material. In engineering applications, the global response of the system is often governed by the behaviour at the smaller length scales. Hence, the sub-scale behaviour must be computed accurately for good predictions of the full scale behaviour.
Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations promise to reveal the fundamental mechanics of material failure by modeling the atom to atom interactions. Since the atomistic dimensions are of the order of Angstroms ( A), approximately 85 billion atoms are required to model a 1 micro- m^3 volume of Copper. Therefore, pure atomistic models are prohibitively expensive with everyday engineering computations involving macroscopic cracks and shear bands, which are much larger than the atomistic length and time scales. To reduce the computational effort, multiscale methods are required, which are able to couple a continuum description of the structure with an atomistic description. In such paradigms, cracks and dislocations are explicitly modeled at the atomistic scale, whilst a self-consistent continuum model elsewhere.
Many multiscale methods for fracture are developed for "fictitious" materials based on "simple" potentials such as the Lennard-Jones potential. Moreover, multiscale methods for evolving cracks are rare. Efficient methods to coarse grain the fine scale defects are missing. However, the existing multiscale methods for fracture do not adaptively adjust the fine scale domain as the crack propagates. Most methods, therefore only "enlarge" the fine scale domain and therefore drastically increase computational cost. Adaptive adjustment requires the fine scale domain to be refined and coarsened. One of the major difficulties in multiscale methods for fracture is to up-scale fracture related material information from the fine scale to the coarse scale, in particular for complex crack problems. Most of the existing approaches therefore were applied to examples with comparatively few macroscopic cracks.
Key contributions
The bridging scale method is enhanced using the phantom node method so that cracks can be modeled at the coarse scale. To ensure self-consistency in the bulk, a virtual atom cluster is devised providing the response of the intact material at the coarse scale. A molecular statics model is employed in the fine scale where crack propagation is modeled by naturally breaking the bonds. The fine scale and coarse scale models are coupled by enforcing the displacement boundary conditions on the ghost atoms. An energy criterion is used to detect the crack tip location. Adaptive refinement and coarsening schemes are developed and implemented during the crack propagation. The results were observed to be in excellent agreement with the pure atomistic simulations. The developed multiscale method is one of the first adaptive multiscale method for fracture.
A robust and simple three dimensional coarse graining technique to convert a given atomistic region into an equivalent coarse region, in the context of multiscale fracture has been developed. The developed method is the first of its kind. The developed coarse graining technique can be applied to identify and upscale the defects like: cracks, dislocations and shear bands. The current method has been applied to estimate the equivalent coarse scale models of several complex fracture patterns arrived from the pure atomistic simulations. The upscaled fracture pattern agree well with the actual fracture pattern. The error in the potential energy of the pure atomistic and the coarse grained model was observed to be acceptable.
A first novel meshless adaptive multiscale method for fracture has been developed. The phantom node method is replaced by a meshless differential reproducing kernel particle method. The differential reproducing kernel particle method is comparatively more expensive but allows for a more "natural" coupling between the two scales due to the meshless interpolation functions. The higher order continuity is also beneficial. The centro symmetry parameter is used to detect the crack tip location. The developed multiscale method is employed to study the complex crack propagation. Results based on the meshless adaptive multiscale method were observed to be in excellent agreement with the pure atomistic simulations.
The developed multiscale methods are applied to study the fracture in practical materials like Graphene and Graphene on Silicon surface. The bond stretching and the bond reorientation were observed to be the net mechanisms of the crack growth in Graphene. The influence of time step on the crack propagation was studied using two different time steps. Pure atomistic simulations of fracture in Graphene on Silicon surface are presented. Details of the three dimensional multiscale method to study the fracture in Graphene on Silicon surface are discussed.