Crack propagation in wood is strongly influenced by the microscopic structure of the material. The
relationship between structure and function with regard to damage and fracture behaviour can
only be understood with a sufficiently fine level of examination. An experimental approach to perform
micro-wedge splitting tests on spruce and beech inside the chamber of an Environmental
Scanning Electron Microscope and under atmospheric conditions is presented. The specimens are
loaded in mode I in the TR crack propagation system. Based on the load-displacement diagram,
the characteristic parameters of fracture energy, critical load and initial elasticity are determined.
The load and displacement data for the in situ experiments are related to the obtained ESEM images
and allow a discussion of the fracture process on the cellular level. Density was found to be an
important factor for fracture mode and several crack arresting phenomena depending on the variation
of elasticity could be identified.
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