Fracture toughness of polycrystalline alumina and ceria partially stabilized tetragonal zirconia (CeO2-TZP) ceramics were assessed in combined mode I and mode II loading using precracked disk specimens in diametral compression. Stress states ranging from pure mode I, combined mode I and mode II, and pure mode II were obtained by aligning the center crack at specific angles relative to the loading diameter. The resulting mixed-mode fracture toughness envelope showed significant deviation to higher fracture toughness in mode II relative to the predictions of the linear elastic fracture mechanics theory. Critical comparison with corresponding results on soda-lime glass and fracture surface observations showed that crack surface resistance arising from grain interlocking and abrasion were the main sources of the increased fracture toughness in mode II loading of the polycrystalline ceramics. The normalized fracture toughness for pure mode II loading, (KII/KIc), increased with increasing grain size for the CeO2-TZP ceramics. Quantitative fractography confirmed an increased percentage of transgranular fracture of the grains in mode II loading.

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