Continuum damage modeling and simulation of hierarchical dental enamel


Dental enamel exhibits high fracture toughness and stiffness due to a complex hierarchical and graded microstructure, optimally organized from nano- to macro-scale. In this study, a 3D representative volume element (RVE) model is adopted to study the deformation and damage behavior of the fibrous microstructure. A continuum damage mechanics model coupled to hyperelasticity is developed for modeling the initiation and evolution of damage in the mineral fibers as well as protein matrix. Moreover, debonding of the interface between mineral fiber and protein is captured by employing a cohesive zone model. The dependence of the failure mechanism on the aspect ratio of the mineral fibers is investigated. In addition, the effect of the interface strength on the damage behavior is studied with respect to geometric features of enamel. Further, the effect of an initial flaw on the overall mechanical properties is analyzed to understand the superior damage tolerance of dental enamel. The simulation results are validated by comparison to experimental data from micro-cantilever beam testing at two hierarchical levels. The transition of the failure mechanism at different hierarchical levels is also well reproduced in the simulations.
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