Ferroelectric ceramics are susceptible to fracture under high electric fields, which are commonly generated in the vicinity of electrodes or conducting layers. In the present work, we extend a phase-field model of fracture in ferroelectric single crystals to the simulation of the propagation of conducting cracks under purely electrical loading. This is done by introducing the electrical enthalpy of a diffuse conducting layer into the phase-field formulation. Simulation results show oblique crack propagation and crack branching from a conducting notch, forming a tree-like crack pattern in a ferroelectric sample under positive and negative electric fields. Microstructure evolution indicates the formation of tail-to-tail and head-to-head 90° domains, which results in charge accumulation around the crack. The charge accumulation, in turn, induces a high electric field and hence a high electrostatic energy, further driving the conducting crack. Salient features of the results are compared with experiments.
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