Numerical analysis of surface crack propagation in flexible pavements using XFEM and cohesive zone model

Hao Wang, Jian Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Surface initiated(top-down) cracking in the longitudinal direction of pavements has become a predominant mode of failure in thick asphalt pavements. Most previous researchers studied crack propagation using the traditional Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics (LEFM) method by calculating the stress intensity factor around the crack tip. In this paper, Extended Finite Element Method(XFEM) was used to study the key factors causing surface initiated crack propagation under surface tension and/or shear. A two-dimensional (2-D) finite element (FE) model for a two-lane flexible pavement was built to predict pavement responses and crack propagation potential under various scenarios. It was found that surface tension is the major driving force for crack propagation when the crack is atsome distance away from tire loading. The results show that the distance from the location of crack to tire loading, the depth and direction of the crack, and the modulus ratio between the hot-mix asphalt (HMA) layer and the base layer have significant influences on crack propagation under surface tension. On the other hand, this study shows that shear stress can induce surface initiated crack propagation near the loading area as the shear resistance of material becomes low at the high temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-184
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Pavement Research and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanics of Materials


  • Cohesive zone model
  • Extended finite element method
  • Flexible pavement
  • Surface initiated cracking


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