We study the failure of planar random fiber networks with computer simulations. The networks are grown by adding flexible fibers one by one on a growing deposit [K. J. Niskanen and M. J. Alava, Phys. Rev. Lett. 73, 3475 (1994)], a process yielding realistic three dimensional network structures. The network thus obtained is mapped to an electrical analogue of the elastic problem, namely to a random fuse network with separate bond elements for the fiber-to-fiber contacts. The conductivity of the contacts (corresponding to the efficiency of stress transfer between fibers) is adjustable. We construct a simple effective medium theory for the current distribution and conductivity of the networks as a function of intra-fiber current transfer efficiency. This analysis compares favorably with the computed conductivity and with the fracture properties of fiber networks with varying fiber flexibility and network thickness. The failure characteristics are shown to obey scaling behavior, as expected of a disordered brittle material, which is explained by the high current end of the current distribution saturating in thick enough networks. For bond breaking, fracture load and strain can be estimated with the effective medium theory. For fiber breaking, we find the counter-intuitive result that failure is more likely to nucleate far from surfaces, as the stress is transmitted more effectively to the fibers in the interior.
- fiber networks