Retardation of Small Creep–Fatigue Crack in Gr. 91 Steel Through the Combined Effects of Stress Relaxation, Microstructural Evolution, and Oxidation
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This investigation reports an unusual effect of hold time (up to 10 seconds) on retardation in the growth of creep–fatigue small cracks at 550 °C in Grade 91 steel. The observed phenomenon was interpreted by elucidating multiple processes that are active in the plastic zone at the crack tip. To this effect, microstructural and mechanical responses of the crack tip plastic zone were compared with the mechanical and microstructural responses during low cycle fatigue/creep–fatigue. It is proposed that the stress relaxation that occurs during the hold time can reduce the stress intensity in the plastic zone of crack tip thus, contributing to retardation in the small crack growth rate. Aside from stress relaxation, stress intensity in the crack tip can be further reduced by the phenomenon of cyclic softening that occurs because of plasticity-induced microstructural coarsening. Separately, the contribution of oxidation-induced crack tip shielding is also considered to explain the observed effects of hold time on crack growth rates. Taken together, a combination of stress relaxation, enhanced rate of cyclic softening, and higher degree of oxidation with the introduction of a hold time is demonstrated to be responsible for reduction in the crack growth under creep–fatigue conditions.
The authors would like to acknowledge C.S. Hawkins, T. Lowe, and T. Jordan for assistance with the experimental work. They also thank Y. Yamamoto, Xinghua Yu, and B.A. Pint for reviewing the manuscript. This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy, under the Crosscutting Research Program.