Analysis of fracture processes in cortical bone tissue

Bones are the principal structural components of a skeleton; they play unique roles in the body providing its shape maintenance, protection of internal organs and transmission of forces. Ultimately, their structural integrity is vital for the quality of life. Unfortunately, bones can only sustain loads until a certain limit, beyond which they fail. Understanding a fracture behaviour of bone is necessary for prevention and diagnosis of trauma; this can be achieved by studying mechanical properties of bone, such as its fracture toughness. Generally, most of bone fractures occur in long bones consisting mostly of cortical bone tissue. Therefore, in this paper, an experimental study and numerical simulations of fracture processes in a bovine femoral cortical bone tissue were considered. A set of experiments was conducted to characterise fracture toughness of the bone tissue in order to gain basic understanding of spatial variability and anisotropy of its resistance to fracture and its link to an underlying microstructure. The data was obtained using single-edge-notch-bending specimens of cortical bone tested in a three-point bending setup; fracture surfaces of specimens were studied using scanning electron microscopy. Based on the results of those experiments, a number of finite-element models were developed in order to analyse its deformation and fracture using the extended finite-element method (X-FEM). Experimental results of this study demonstrate both variability and anisotropy of fracture toughness of the cortical bone tissue; the developed models adequately reflected the experimental data.