Avian eggshells may break easily when impacted at a localized point; however, they exhibit impressive resistance when subjected to a well-distributed compressive load. For example, a common demonstration of material strength is firmly squeezing a chicken egg along its major axis between one's hands without breaking it. This research provides insight into the underlying mechanics by evaluating both macroscopic and microstructural features. Eggs of different size, varying from quail (30 mm) to ostrich (150 mm), are investigated. Compression experiments were conducted along the major axis of the egg using force-distributing rubber cushions between steel plates and the egg. The force at failure increases with egg size, reaching loads upwards of 5000 N for ostrich eggs. The corresponding strength, however, decreases with increasing shell thickness (intimately related to egg size); this is rationalized by a micro-defects model. Failure occurs by axial splitting parallel to the loading direction—the result of hoop tensile stresses due to the applied compressive load. Finite-element analysis is successfully employed to correlate the applied compressive force to tensile breaking strength for the eggs, and the influence of geometric ratio and microstructural heterogeneities on the shell's strength and fracture toughness is established.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3662806.
- Received October 4, 2016.
- Accepted January 3, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.