We investigate the breakdown of disordered networks under the action of an increasing external-mechanical or electrical-force. We perform a mean-field analysis and estimate scaling exponents for the approach to the instability. By simulating two-dimensional models of electric breakdown and fracture we observe that the breakdown is preceded by avalanche events. The avalanches can be described by scaling laws, and the estimated values of the exponents are consistent with those found in mean-field theory. The breakdown point is characterized by a discontinuity in the macroscopic properties of the material, such as conductivity or elasticity, indicative of a first-order transition. The scaling laws suggest an analogy with the behavior expected in spinodal nucleation.


Originally published in Physical Review E, v.59 no.5 (1999), pp.5049-5057. DOI:10.1103/PhysRevE.59.5049. Dr. Vespignani is affiliated with Northeastern University as of the time of deposit.


disordered networks, avalanche events

Subject Categories

Scaling laws (Statistical physics), Breakdown (Electricity), Mean field theory




American Physical Society

Publication Date


Rights Information

©1999 American Physical Society

Rights Holder

American Physical Society

Click button above to open, or right-click to save.

Included in

Physics Commons