This paper investigates experimentally and analytically the delayed fracture in lead zirconate titanate (PZT) ceramics under electromechanical loading. Delayed fracture tests were conducted on single-edge precracked-beam specimens, and time-to-failure and fracture load under different DC electric fields were obtained. Possible mechanisms for delayed fracture were also discussed by scanning electron microscope (SEM) examination of the fracture surface of the PZT ceramics. Further, a nonlinear finite element analysis was employed to calculate the energy release rate for the permeable, impermeable and open crack models, and the effects of applied DC electric fields and localized polarization switching on the energy release rate are examined.

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