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During nonlinear evolution of laser-generated surface acoustic wave ͑SAW͒ pulses the stress increases with distance of propagation, and causes fracturing of brittle materials. This effect was used to evaluate the strength of isotropic fused quartz and anisotropic crystalline silicon with respect to impulsive loading in the nanosecond range and spontaneous cracking without using seed cracks. Crack nucleation and propagation along the surface was studied by optical microscopy and into the depthdoi:10.1063/1.1594275 fatcat:ruxhsebonrhrpaqr2c534jk5f4