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EFFECT OF CORROSION MEDIA ON CRACK PROPAGATION IN

HIGH STRENGTH STEELS - A NUMERICAL SIMULATION


J. Palma Carrasco
a
, D. D. Silva Diniz
b
, J. M. Andrade Barbosa
c
and A. Almeida Silva
b

a
PPGCEMat, Academic Unity of Materials Engineering, Federal University of Campina Grande, Av.
Aprgio Veloso, 882, Bodocong, 58429-900, Campina Grande, PB, Brasil,
http://dema.ufcg.edu.br/web/pos-graduacao/
b
Academic Unity of Mechanical Engineering, Federal University of Campina Grande, Av. Aprgio
Veloso, 882, Bodocong, 58429-900, Campina Grande, PB, Brazil, http://www.dem.ufcg.edu.br/
c
Departament of Mechanical Engineering, Federal University of Pernambuco, Av. Prof. Moraes Rego,
1235, Cidade Universitria, 50670-901, Recife, PE, Brazil, http://www.ufpe.br/demec/
Keywords: Continuum damage mechanics, Fracture mechanics, Crack propagation, Stress
corrosion cracking
Abstract. The stress corrosion cracking is an environmental-assisted-cracking form
considered one of the most severe degradation mechanisms of mechanical properties of high
strength steels, because has shown a very significant influences in the intensification of
subcritical crack growth and in the decreased their fracture resistance. Thus, evaluate the
susceptibility of materials to this phenomenon is a basic requirement for the safe operation of
equipment and structures. In this work was used a model based on synthesis of the continuum
damage and fracture mechanics to simulate the crack propagation under mechanical static
loads and a corrosive media effect, with aim of simulate the stress corrosion cracking
phenomenon. The simulation was performed in elastic regimen, in a rectangular steel
specimen with an edge crack loaded in opening mode I, in plane strain state. Starting from the
simulations, it was possible to observe the effect of the damage at the onset and crack
propagation time under different concentration corrosive agent levels. Also was verified the
stress intensity factor influence on crack growth rate. The results showed good consistency
with macroscopic observations of phenomenon, allowing to obtain a better understanding of
the process and to validate the model for the conditions and hypotheses adopted.
1 INTRODUCTION
The stress corrosion cracking - SCC is an important cause for failure of metallic structures
produced by simultaneous action of mechanical static stress, applied or residual, a chemically
aggressive environment and the properties of material. The material must be susceptible to the
combined action of environment and stress, which must be above a threshold value. Corrosion
rates are often low, and the stresses that cause SCC, are generally lower than the yield
strength of the material. This phenomenon occurs in materials that have good resistance to
general corrosion, causing not only loss of ductility in high strength alloys, as well as in
ductile materials (Woodtli and Kieselbach, 2000).
The SCC often occurs without any visible deformation of the material and is difficult, if
not impossible, to detect in early stages, given that the effect of corrosion and mechanical load
is extremely complex because it involves the joint action of mechanical and electrochemical
processes (Scheider et al, 2008). This is the reason why the mechanisms proposed to explain
the onset of micro-cracking and crack propagation processes are not able to elucidate all
aspects of this phenomenon in different metal/environment systems. Despite this uncertainty,
the susceptibility evaluation to cracking is a fundamental requirement for the safe operation of
equipment and structures, being achieved through laboratory tests that simulate the conditions
of SCC incidence. However, in these tests are not obtained all basic parameters that must be
used directly in engineering design or in determining the residual life of equipment (Bastos et
al, 2005).
Additionally, as the tests of full-scale components are much more complicated and require
a lot of technical and economic resources, and long periods of time, the use of computational
modeling as tools for predicting the behavior of material in SCC is a viable choice. The
computational modeling allows to study several parameters simultaneously, consuming less
time and resources compared with laboratory tests and also facilitates a better understanding
of the characteristics and mechanisms of the phenomena studied (Viyanit, 2005).
The modeling of the SCC is mainly performed in the frameworks of fracture mechanics
and damage mechanics, and each offer advantages and disadvantages. In the damage
mechanics approach, the damage is incorporated into the model using internal variables
related to the loss of strength of the system by the degradation process, making it possible to
consider important physical phenomena, such as plasticity, hardening and corrosion. These
possibilities led to development of models that allow solving problems connected to the
degradation of material properties, as that related to SCC. (McLaughlin, 1997; Bastos et al,
2005; Viyanit, 2005; Scheider et al, 2008; Choi and Chudnovsky, 2010).
Solve of the crack evolution problem in structures under static mechanical loading in
corrosive environment represents a certain degree of complexity, so we must use numerical
methods to find the solution. The time-dependence of mass transport process and the
simultaneous occurrence of other phenomena, such as damage accumulation and crack
growth, contribute to this. Additionally, from the point of view of computational
implementation, the simulation presents many difficulties due to the high level of
interdependence between the model equations. For this reason, besides of using a
mathematical model that represents with good degree of approximation all phenomena
involved in the problem, is very important the choice of a numeric method of simple
implementation and a appropriate software. In this work we used the mathematical model
proposed by Bolotin and Shipkov (2001) and the 4th order Runge-Kutta method. The chosen
software was Matlab 7.0.
2 MODEL OF CRACK GROWTH UNDER ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECT
In this model, the crack propagation is evaluated as the result of interactions between the
conditions of stability of the cracked body as a mechanical system and the process of damage
accumulation at the crack tip. The model includes the equations to the accumulation of each
damage type, the equation that describes the evolution of the crack tip and the equation that
describes the influence of the damage accumulation process on the fracture resistance. The
linking of these equations and their association to the conditions of equilibrium and stability
of cracked body, allowing the modeling of crack growth under the effect of SCC.
2.1 Cracked body mechanics
From the viewpoint of mechanics of deformable solids, crack initiation and growth are a
result of the interaction of two mechanisms: damage accumulation near the crack tip and the
general balance of forces and energy in the system cracked body-loading-environment.
Therefore, the crack behavior depends on the relationship between the generalized driving
force, G, and the generalized resistance force, ; in addition, the generalized resistance force
depends on the damage accumulated at the crack tip zone. G can be associated with the
energy release rate in linear fracture mechanics, and with the critical magnitudes of this
rate. In terms of these forces, the crack does not grow while the condition G < be respected.
The crack growth will begin and propagates stably until the next arrest or until the fail when
G = . In the case of G > , the system is unstable, and the crack to propagates until the
fracture of the component (Bolotin, 1996).
2.2 Damage accumulation
To model the damage accumulation in SCC processes, is introduced a special measure for
the damage due to mechanical loading and due to corrosion, as well as the kinetic equations
that governs its evolution in the time. Therefore, the damage field usually represented by =
(x, t), is now represented by a set of scalar damage fields,
1
(x, t), ...,
n
(x, t), which vary
between zero (undamaged material) and unity (material completely damaged).
The evolutions of mechanical damage (
s
) and corrosion damage (
c
) at the crack tip are
given by:
c
m
d
th
c
c
c
c c
t dt
d
|
|
.
|

\
|
=
1
(2)
where
s
and c
d
characterize the resistance to damage caused by static loading and the
environment;
th
and c
th
are resistance threshold parameters. The m
s
and m
c
are exponents
similar to the exponents of equations for fatigue and crack growth rate curves. t
c
is a time
constant, whose magnitude depends on the parameters
s
and c
d
or be chosen arbitrarily. is
the average tensile stress that acts in the considered material point, and c is the corrosive
agents concentration at this point.
The stress concentration at the crack tip is related to the curvature tip radius, . Its
evolution is governed by several processes, such as the crack growth, the accumulation of
mechanical damage and corrosion damage. The evolution of the curvature tip radius of a
crack with length a, is given by:

s
m
s
th
c
s
t dt
d
|
|
.
|

\
|
=
o
o o 1
(1)
( )
( )
dt
d
dt
da
dt
d
c s
b
a
s

+
+

=
(3)
The first term on the right side of the equation describes the tip sharpening due to crack
growth with the rate da/dt to the magnitude
s
. The second describes the tip blunting due to
damage accumulation to the magnitude
b
.
a
is a parameter with length dimension.

s
and
c
are the zone lengths of damage evolution of two degradation processes (Fig. 1)

Figure 1: Distribution of mechanical and corrosion damages in an edge crack in the mode I (Font: Bolotin and
Shipkov, 2001).
The last relationship that closes the set of govern equations of the model, interrelates the
generalized resistance force with the damage measures ahead the crack tip. For a crack in
plane strain state, is given by:

] ) ( [1
0
o
_
s c
+ =

(4)
where
0
is the fracture specific work for an undamaged body, characterizes the residual
fracture toughness and is a material parameter. The generalized propagation force can be
calculated by:
( )
2
2
I
I
1 u =
E
K
G (5)
where E is the Young's modulus, is the Poisson's ratio and K
I
the stress intensity factor.
2.3 Environmental agent transport
The concentration of an active environmental agent in the neighborhood of the crack tip is
characterized with a scalar variable that depends on a physical time and is denoted by c(t).
When the agents transport occurs monotonically, quasi-stationary models are accepted. One
this models is given by:
dt
da c c c c
dt
dc
t b t a t
D D
t

+

=
(6)
where the first term on the right side represents the diffusion mechanism, and the second, the
effect of crack propagation.
D
is the characteristic length of diffusion zone and
D
the
characteristic time of diffusion. c
t
is the concentration at the crack tip and c
b
is a characteristic
concentration for rapid crack growth. The parameter c
a
, which characterizes the stationary
concentration reach for a stationary crack in the time t>>
D
, depends on the environment
agents concentration and the crack length, is given by:
a
n
e a
a
a
c c

|
|
.
|

\
|
+ = 1 (7)
where c
e
is the agents concentration at the crack mouth. a

> 0 and n
a
0 are constants that
depend on the material properties and the environment.
3 NUMERICAL FORMULATION
The purpose of this work is to evaluate the crack propagation problem under SCC
conditions using the mathematic model described previously. The simulation was performed
in elastic regime, in a rectangular specimen with an edge crack loaded in the opening mode I,
in plane strain state. The SCC conditions were given for a static mechanical load and a
corrosive environmental effect.
The mechanical load was given by the stress
a
and the corrosive effect by the chemical
agents concentration at the crack mouth. Both were considered constant throughout the
process. The equations of evolution of concentration, damage, crack length, crack tip radius
and of generalized resistance forces form a 1st-order differential equations system, which was
solved through the 4th order Runge-Kutta method. The software used was Matlab 7.0, with
wide applicability in engineering as a computational tool to solve equations that describe
physical problems.
The 4th order Runge-Kutta method is a numerical method based in the Taylor Series,
which consist in determine the average value of the derivative of function on an interval
through estimating the derivatives of this function at different points of this interval. Despite
using a high computational capacity, produces more accurate results than those obtained with
other numerical methods. Given that allows to solve equations with complicated analytical
solution, your choice was crucial in lowering the difficulty to solve the equations system of
the model adopted.
The computational procedure is quite complicated due to the high interdependence of the
model equations, which causes deviations in the results and computational instability. The
developed program consists of a main routine of 127 command lines and a subroutine of 62
lines. The 4th order Runge-Kutta method was implemented in the main routine and the model
equations were placed in the subroutine. The interaction between the main routine and the
subroutine allows the construction of a vector results, which is then stored in the row of a 5
columns matrix. From the values stored in this matrix, the software was able to plot graphs
with the results.
The points that describe the solution of the system were obtained through:
( )
( )
( )
( )
( ) 2 / , 2 /
2 / , 2 /
2 / , 2 /
,
2 2
6
3 0 0 4
2 0 0 3
1 0 0 2
0 0 1
4 3 2 1 0
hK y h t f K
hK y h t f K
hK y h t f K
y t f K
K K K K
h
y y
+ + =
+ + =
+ + =
=
+ + + + =

(8)
where y
0
is the initial conditions vector of the problem, h is the iteration step and f is the
vector of differential equations of model. In this case, y
0
is given by:
y
0
={a, c,
c
,
s
, } (9)
where a = a
0
, c = c
e
,
c
= 0,
s
= 0, and =
0
.
The program works very efficiently due to the way in which the routines were
implemented, with a very low processing time (about 30 seconds on a computer with
processor i3 and 3GB RAM), thus providing results with very low computational cost.
The algorithm used in the numerical simulation is shown in Fig. 2.
1. Enter
a
, K
IC
, a
0
, c
e
,
c
,
s
,
0

2. Define the vector of initial variables {y
0
}
3. Compute , K
I
, G,
4. Verify: K
I
< K
IC

4.1. No
4.1.1. Print graphs.
4.1.2. End.
4.2. Yes
4.2.1. Go to 5
5. Verify: G <
5.1. Yes
5.1.1. Then da/dt = 0
5.1.2. Compute/actualize c
t

5.1.3. Compute/actualize
c
,
s
,
5.1.4 Compute/actualize
5.1.5. Go to 6
5.2. No
5.2.1. Then
c
=
s
= 0
5.2.2. Compute/actualize c
t

5.2.3. Compute da/dt
5.2.4 Compute/actualize
5.2.5. Go to 6
6. Actualize {y
0
}
7. Go to 3
Figure 2: Algorithm used in the simulation.
4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
For the evaluation of the applicability of model under the study conditions discussed
previously, was used a cracked rectangular specimen with dimensions: l = 120mm, w =
80mm, b = 20mm, according Fig. 3. The crack dimensions were: a
0
= 4 mm and
0
= 50m.
The material chosen was the 13Cr95 supermartensitic stainless steel, whose mechanical
and physical properties are shown in Table 1.
In the simulation was assumed that the initial damage and the entrance concentration were
null. The applied tension,
a
= 300MPa, approximately 48% of
Y
, was kept constant
throughout the process.
The material parameters adopted for the simulation are shown in Table 2.


Figure 3: Rectangular specimen with an edge crack under the applied stress
a
.

Table 1: Physical and mechanical properties of 13Cr95 supermartensitic stainless steel (Font: V & M tubes,
2010, Dias et al, 2008).

r

e
E K
IC

(Pa) (Pa) (Pa) (ad.) (Pam)
7.24E8 6.55E8 2.01E11 0.30 1.28E8
Table 2: Materials parameters (Font: Bolotin and Shipkov, 2001).
c
b
c
d
c
th

D
t
c

s

th

s

b

D

a

c

s

0
m
s
m
c

(ad.) (ad.) (ad.) (s) (s) (Pa) (Pa) (m) (m) (m) (m) (m) (m) (ad.) (kJ/m
2
) (ad.) (ad.) (ad.)
0.5 4.0 0.0 1E3 1E5 5E9 25E7 10.0 1E2 10.0 1E2 1E2 1E2 1.0 74.2 2.0 2.0 1.0
The Figure 4 shows the concentration evolution of corrosive agent at the crack tip after the
application of the full model, which include damage accumulation and crack growth rate. In
the generated curve can be observed that the mass transport in the initial stage of the process
is very fast, which is due to the diffusion speed of the corrosive agent in the crack.

Figure 4: Evolution of concentration at the crack tip, c
t
, normalized with c
a
.
The second stage, where a stable concentration is reached, corresponds to a critical value
of saturation and the onset of crack propagation. When growth becomes more intense, the
transport of the corrosive agent to the crack tip is difficult, causing the rapid drop in
concentration observed at the end of the third stage.
In Figure 5 are shown the curves of damage evolution at the crack tip of two damages
considered,
s
and
c
. Can be observe that the magnitude of both damages increases
monotonically when the crack is fixed and a sharply decrease when starts the crack
propagation. It is clear that the influence of corrosion damage is much greater than the
mechanical damage. This behavior is the result of the conditions of concentration and load
adopted, and the high toughness of 13Cr95 steel and its low resistance to the SCC.
In the case of a simulation using an SCC-resistant steel will be possible to observe that the
contribution of mechanical damage is much more important than the corrosion damage, so the
final fracture can be attributed mainly to mechanical loading effect.

Figure 5: Evolution of mechanical and corrosion damages.
The Figure 6 shows the total damage curve, which is the sum of mechanical and corrosion
damages. This curve shows that at the time of onset of crack propagation, the sum of both
damages is equal to 1. This is consistent with the damage mechanics theory, which indicates
that the crack starts its propagation when the material ahead the tip is completely damaged,
namely when the total damage is equal to 1.

Figure 6: Evolution of total damage. The contributions of mechanical and corrosion damages are included.
This is consistent with the fracture mechanics too. On framework of this theory, the fact of
the damage total equals to 1, can be interpreted as the residual toughness of the material ahead
of tip is not enough to stop the crack growth, and that, if the load and/or the concentration
conditions are not changed, the critical intensity stress of material will be achieved, leading to
unstable crack propagation.
The curve in Fig. 7 shows the evolution of the effective crack tip radius and illustrates
phenomena that are difficult to observe directly. The growing part of the curve represents the
blunting tip due to damage accumulation process. When the process of tip blunting is
finalized, starts the tip sharpening process, which also corresponds to the onset of crack
propagation.

Figure 7: Evolution of the effective crack tip radius.
In Figure 8 are shows the curves of evolution of crack growth plotted for the same applied
stress and three different entrance concentrations, c
e
, normalized with c
a
. In them can be seen
that the initial evolution of the crack is very slow and that only after a certain time it starts a
smooth growth with an increasing rate. The highest point in the curves represents the onset of
unstable propagation, which results in the final fracture of the component. As expected, the
times of onset of crack growth and fracture decreases as the concentration increases, since
promotes a more active degradation process.

Figure 8: Evolution of the crack growth for the same applied stress and different concentrations.
Figure 9 shows the graph of evolution of stress intensity factor in time, caused by the crack
growth. The trend in evolution of stress intensity factor, showed by the behavior of the curve,
is to grow until reach to fracture toughness of the material (red line), moment when the
collapse of the structure will occur. In the work of Palma et al. (2009), where were used the
parameters of a Maraging T250 steel under hydrogen embrittlement effect, was observed a
similar behavior, typical of environmental-assisted cracking processes. This behavior is
consistent with the curves obtained from experimental results (Brown and Beachem, 1965)
and allow visualize the propagation process of cracks under the effect of mechanic static loads
and environmental actions, characterized in this case, by the corrosive agent effect.

Figure 9: Evolution of the stress intensity factor.
The curve of Fig. 10 show the relationship between the rate of crack growth and stress
intensity factor, where can be observed three regions. In the first two regions, the crack
growth mechanism is controlled by an environmental mechanism complemented by a
mechanical rupture. The subcritical crack growth is limited to these regions. In the third
region the proportion of mechanical rupture increases rapidly with increasing of the stress
intensity factor values, until a critical value is reached and the final fracture occurs
(McLaughlin, 1997).

Figure 10: Relationship of crack growth rate with the stress intensity factor.
The curve obtained in the simulation shows the same behavior of a typical curve obtained
in the scientific literature (Fig. 11), where the lower value of K
I
is designated as "threshold
value of SCC" (or K
ISCC
) that characterizes the stress intensity factor at the first extension
measurable of crack. The practical significance of K
ISCC
is that below this stress intensity
level, the crack growth rates in SCC fall below to a very small limit, as 10
-10
m/s, which
corresponds to an increase in crack extension of approximately 3mm/year (Speidel, 1971).

Figure 11: Typical curve da/dt vs. K
I
(Speidel, 1971).
4 CONCLUSIONS
The simulations of crack evolution processes in different concentrations showed that the
times of onset of crack growth and final fracture decreases as the concentration increases,
namely, when the corrosive action of environmental agent is more deleterious.
The results of simulations shown that the proposed model is quite consistent and robust,
which is able to describe the behavior of physical phenomena present at the onset and crack
propagation in a component under SCC effects.
The applied model showed a good interaction between the principles of mechanics of
continuous damage and fracture mechanics, which provided satisfactory results when
compared with experimental results found in the scientific literature.
It can be concluded from these results, it is feasible to use numerical simulation as an
additional tool for the design of structures operating in chemically aggressive environments,
optimizing the balance between security and economic design.
5 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors are very grateful to FINEP / CTPETRO / CNPq / PETROBRAS / RPCmod
and to ANP/UFCG/PRH-25 for have financed the development of this investigation work.
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