A new cohesive zone model is developed in order to study the mechanisms of adhesive and cohesive failures of soft rubbery materials. The fracture energy is estimated here using a strategy similar to that of Lake and Thomas (LT) by considering the dissipation of stored elastic energy followed by the extension and relaxation of polymer chains. The current model, however, departs from that of LT in that the force needed to break an interfacial bond does not have a fixed value; instead, it depends on the thermal state of the system and the rate at which the force is transmitted to the bond. While the force required to rupture a chain is set by the rules of thermomechanically activated bond dissociation kinetics, extension of a polymer chain is modeled within both the linear and nonlinear models of chain elasticity. Closed form asymptotic solutions are obtained for the dependence of crack propagation speed on the energy release rate, which are valid in two regimes: (I) slow crack velocity or short relaxation time for bond dissociation; (II) fast crack velocity or long relaxation time for bond dissociation. The rate independent and the zero temperature limit of this theory correctly reduces to the fracture model of LT. Detailed comparisons are made with a previous work by Chaudhury et al. which carried out an approximate analysis of the same problem.
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