Crack growth from internal hydrogen-temperature and microstructural effects in 4340 steel

W. W. Gerberich, T. L1vne, X. F. Chen, M. Kaczorowski

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Internal hydrogen effects on stage II crack growth rates in AISI 4340 steel have been studied as a function of test temperature. A model is developed that is physically based in that classical thermodynamics relates to solubility and trapping and Fick's second law controls hydrogen transport. Both of these are microstructurally related to how trapping affects both the crack initiation site and diffusion to it. For two tempered conditions of 4340 steel, it is shown that there is a test temperature, T 0, for stage II crack growth, above which the crack does not grow. The fractography associated with test temperatures approaching T 0 tends toward 100 pct intergranular for both 1340 MPa and 1620 MPa strength levels. At lower test temperatures, there is as much as 50 pct microvoid coalescence or 30 pct quasi-cleavage. In the lower strength condition, hydrogen traps at oxysulfide particles with a binding energy near 75 kJ/mol. Where these intersect the prior austenite grain boundaries, this promotes fingers of intergranular fracture which later triggers tearing of 100 μm size ligaments by microvoid coalescence. For the higher strength material, it is proposed that hydrogen traps along martensite lath intersections with prior austenite grain boundaries, the binding energy being near 27 kJ/mol. This promotes 1 μm size striations along intergranular facets. In both cases the fractography is consistent with a proposed model of stress field concentration of hydrogen, further concentration along trap sites, fracture nucleation at trap sites, and local, discontinuous fracture instabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1319-1334
Number of pages16
JournalMetallurgical Transactions A
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1988


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