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Engineering FailureAnalysis, Vol 2, No. 4 pp.

297-305, 1995
Pergamon Copyright© 1995ElsevierScienceLtd
Printed in Great Britain. All rightsreserved
1350-6307/95 $9.50 + 0.00

1350-6307(94)110022--4

EMBRITTLEMENT OF A STEAM TURBINE ROTOR

MAGNUS G L A D H and PER WALLI~N


University College of Falun Borl~inge, P.O. Box 764, S-781 27 Borl~inge, Sweden

(Received 23 June 1995)

Abstraet--A 3Cr-0.5Mo turbine disc has been examined to gain more knowledge regarding
the life prediction of steam turbines. The disc was used in a radial steam turbine for about
70,000 h between 1965 and 1992. During service hot and pressurized steam caused a
temperature gradient in the disc from 535 °C in the centre to 330 °C in the periphery. It is
clear that there is a reduction in hardness from the periphery to the centre of the discs, and
also a decrease in Charpy V energy. The reduction in hardness is mainly caused by additional
tempering of the material due to the high temperature in the centre of the disk. The reduction
in Charpy V energy shows that the material has become severely embrittled and the transition
temperature is notably higher in the centre than in the periphery. Auger analysis shows that
the major cause of the embrittlement is the diffusion of phosphorus to the prior austenite
grain boundaries.

1. INTRODUCTION

In power plants today, components are often used beyond their designed lifetime.
There is also reason to believe that this trend will keep up into the twenty-first
century due to strong economic reasons and technical justifications for continued
operation of these plants. It is of great interest to evaluate methods to assess the
condition of the components and project their remaining useful lives. This is also an
important step to prevent failure. According to Viswanathan [1], degradation of
components used at high temperatures can occur by different mechanisms, such as
creep, fatigue, creep-fatigue, embrittlement, hydrogen attack and hot corrosion. In
this paper, special attention will be directed towards embrittlement.
One form of embrittlement in quenched and tempered alloyed steels is referred to
as temper embrittlement. This problem may occur if the steel is slowly cooled or
heated through the approximate temperature interval 300-600 °C. The holding time in
the mentioned temperature interval, the alloying and impurity elements, and the
microstructure (especially grain size) are all important factors [2]. Temper embrittle-
ment is caused by enrichment of impurity atoms at the grain boundaries of the steel.
It is a well-known fact that these impurities reduce the cohesivity of the grain
boundaries [3]. The most harmful impurities are antimony, phosphorus, tin and
arsenic [4].
In general, embrittlement reduces the toughness of the material and changes the
fracture mechanism from ductile to brittle cleavage. This is similar to the behaviour
observed in ferritic steels with decreasing test temperature. Charpy V testing is the
most commonly used method to evaluate the ductile-to-brittle transition in steels, and
the temperature at which this transition occurs is usually determined. A steel that has
been embrittled will show an increase in its transition temperature and it is natural to
use the shift in transition temperature as a measure of embrittlement. The ductile-to-
brittle transition temperature (DBTT) is defined as the temperature where the
Charpy V energy is equal to the mean value of the upper and the lower shelf energies
[5]. An alternative parameter, the fracture appearance transition temperature (FAT-I')
is defined as the temperature where the fracture surface has 50% ductile and 50%
brittle appearance (FATT50%) [5].
The aim of this investigation was to study the mechanisms of embrittlement in a
rotor material to gain more knowledge regarding the life prediction of steam turbines.
297
298 MAGNUS GLADH and PER WALLt~N
2. E X P E R I M E N T A L
2.1. Material
The disc material, 3 C r - 0 . 5 M o steel, was delivered in 1963 from Bofors with the
original name R O 4154. The notation according to A B B S T A L is 2237-95. The steel
was quenched from 910 °C and t e m p e r e d at 610 °C. The nominal composition of the
steel is given in Table 1.
Steam at 535 °C causes a temperature distribution in the disc during service of the
turbine. The t e m p e r a t u r e has been calculated [6] along the radius of the disc and
varies from 535°C in the centre to about 330°C in the periphery (Fig. 1). A
schematic of the disc geometry is given in Fig. 2. The disc radius (R) is 442 m m . A
test sample taken from a region with radius r = 386 m m gives a relation r/R = 87%.
The location of a sample will be given in per cent of the disc radius (Fig. 2).
The turbine was in service between 1965 and 1992, and accummulated 70,000 work
hours with about 700 start-ups. Two major disruptions occurred during this period. In
1968 there was a change of labyrinth discs and in 1988 small cracks were detected
inside the inlet channels of the disc. These were ground out and the disc was put back
into service. In 1992 the disc was replaced and became an object for investigations.

2.2. Microstructure and mechanical testing


The microstructure was studied by a Jeol JSM 820 scanning electron microscope
(SEM), and for some identifications X-ray analysis was used. The samples were in the
final stage polished with 3 #m diamond suspension and etched for about 10 s in Nital.
The Vickers hardness in different positions along the radius of the disc was
measured with a load of 30 kgf (HV30) as a mean value of at least three indentations.
The Charpy V specimens were n a m e d from the orientation relative to the disc and
from the direction of the crack propagation as shown in Fig. 3. Specimens tangentially
(T) oriented with a notch so that the crack will propagate in the radial (R) direction
were denoted as T R specimens, tangentially (T) oriented with axial (Z) crack
propagation as T Z specimens, and radial (R) oriented with axial (Z) crack propaga-
tion as R Z specimens. The specimens were manufactured according to the E N 10 045
standard.
The transition t e m p e r a t u r e of the steel was determined as D B T T and F A T T for the
T R specimens. The testing was performed at six different temperatures in the range
from - 6 0 °C to 180 °C, with three tests at each temperature. The areas of interest
were centre, middle and periphery, which correspond to 18, 64 and 96% of the disc
radius, respectively (compare Fig. 2).
Charpy V testing of T R , T Z and R Z specimens from a region of about 60% of the
radius were used to investigate the influence of specimen orientation.
Four Charpy V T R specimens from the 60% region were heated in a furnace for

Table 1. Nominal chemical composition of the disc [6]

Analysis 1993"
Analysis 1963 Periphery Centre
(wt %) (wt %) (wt %)
C 0.30 0.28 0.23
Si 0.27 0.33 0.32
Mn 0.56 0.64 0.61
P 0.007 0.012 0.01
S 0.008 0.009 0.007
Cr 3.2 3.2 3.15
Ni 0.12 0.11 0.1
Mo 0.45 0.44 0.41
*Ti, Nb, Co, Sn, W, V, AI and N ~<0.01 wt% and Cu ~<0.05 wt%
were detected.
Embrittlement of a steam turbine rotor 299
550
m m ~ m ~ n

Centre •
500 d

i •l
:..., 450 .............................................................
!.........
~ .............~..............................................................

i ", i
i •
[-~ 400

350

Periphery
300 i i i i i i i i i i i i i I i
0 0,2 0,4 0,6 0,8
Radius (r/R)
Fig. 1. Calculated service temperature of the turbine disc along the radius.

23 min and held at 620 °C for 10 min, followed by quenching in oil at 105 °C. The
temperature decreased to 600°C before reaching the oil, and in the oil the
temperature became less than 300 °C within 7 s. These specimens were compared with
non-heat-treated specimens with identical orientation.
2.3. Auger electron spectroscopy
Cylindrical samples from 17, 69 and 96% of the radius were manufactured for
investigation in a PHI 660 Perkin Elmer scanning Auger microprobe (SAM). The
length of the cylinders was 16 mm and the diameter 3.5 mm. To be able to fracture
the sample in situ a 1.25 mm deep notch was made along the middle of the periphery
of the cylinders. The samples were cooled indirectly with liquid nitrogen to a
temperature of - 1 0 0 °C before fracture. The fracture was performed in ultra-high
vacuum, i.e. less than 10 -9 mbar, to avoid contamination of the fracture surface.
The purpose of the SAM investigation was to establish whether grain boundary
segregation had occurred and if so to identify the segregants.

3. R E S U L T S
3.1. Microstructure and mechanical properties
In the periphery, i.e. the lowest temperature region during service, the microstruc-
ture is tempered martensite, while the centre of the disc shows overtempered

J
L ......... ..y.°°,
i :.,. Region at 42%
•. of the radius
J %

i .............. ........................................ .---


\
[ Centre \.N Middle Periphery
i ....................................... ..................... . ................................ .

i , , , ' I , , , , l
0 50% 100%
Radius r/R
Fig. 2. Schematic of the turbine disc from the centre to the periphery. T h e radius (R) is
442 ram.
300 MAGNUS GLADH and PER WALLI~N

Axial z~ia;~tlon (R) ~ ] ]


direction (') ~ ~ /. TRsp~i~-en

Fig. 3. Sector of the disc including the directions and names of the specimens used in Charpy
V testing.

martensite/bainite with a large amount of Cr-rich carbides.


The size of the carbides increases from the periphery to the centre of the disc and
the prior austenite grain boundaries are also more clearly visible on samples taken
from the centre because of carbide enrichment. Examples of SEM micrographs taken
from 86, 48 and 14% of the disc radius are shown in Figs 4-6.
The result of the hardness measurements is presented in Fig. 7. There is a
reduction in hardness from 290 HV in the periphery to about 210 H V in the centre of
the disc. From about 80 to 40% of the radius, a distance of 200 ram, the reduction is
80 H V and nearly linear.
The Charpy V energy for the T R specimens at room temperature decreases from
about 80 J in the periphery to 20 J at 64% of the disc radius (Fig. 8). No influence of
specimen orientation can be observed for the TR, R Z and T Z specimens in the
50-70% region. However, the effect of the heat treatment is dramatic.
The transition temperature D B T T at 18, 64 and 96% of the disc radius is 83, 110
and 14 °C, respectively (Fig. 9). FATT50% for the same samples gives a similar
result, 75, 106 and 0 °C, respectively (Fig. 10).

Fig. 4. SEM micrograph of a sample at 86% of the disc radius.


Embrittlement of a steam turbine rotor 301

Fig. 5. SEM micrograph of a sample at 48% of the disc radius. Note the coarsening of the
carbides compared to Fig. 4.

3.2. Auger electron spectroscopy


Phosphorus was detected on intergranular surfaces fractured in situ for samples
taken from 17 and 69% of the disc radius. A representative Auger spectrum is shown
in Fig. 11. Note the large peak of phosphorus on the intergranular surface compared
to the transgranular surface. The amount of phosphorus compared to iron on the

Fig. 6. SEM micrograph of a sample at 14% of the disc radius. Grain boundaries are marked
out with carbides. Note the lower magnification than in Figs 4 and 5.
302 MAGNUS GLADH and PER WALLI~N

300 i

• iO •
280 .................................................................... i ......................... , .................................. i

5" i QO0
E 26O
IO0
.ta
> 80 HV : •
240
• oi

220 .......................................................... i..................................................


• i

",' E
200 " < 201: mm

185/442 /| 356/442
180 , , , , , , t h , , , , ,/ , , ,
0 0,2 0,4 0,6 0,8
Radius r/R
Fig. 7. Vickers hardness along the radius of the disc.

i n t e r g r a n u l a r surface is 1:6, c a l c u l a t e d as the p e a k - t o - p e a k ratio. T h e r e is also a clear


i n d i c a t i o n o f l a r g e r a m o u n t s o f Cr a n d M o o n t h e i n t e r g r a n u l a r surface. T h e
s y m m e t r y o f the c a r b o n p e a k indicates t h a t these a l l o y i n g e l e m e n t s exist as c a r b i d e s .
D e p t h profiles w e r e m a d e by s e q u e n t i a l surface analysis a n d r e m o v a l of surface layers
b y ion b e a m s p u t t e r i n g . T h e s e profiles r e v e a l p h o s p h o r u s in the o r d e r o f o n l y a few
a t o m layers o n i n t e r g r a n u l a r surfaces. A n e x a m p l e is s h o w n in Fig. 12. T h e
d i f f e r e n t i a t e d s p e c t r u m shows the e n e r g y r e g i o n o f i n t e r e s t with the p h o s p h o r u s p e a k
l o c a t e d at 120 eV. A s can be seen the p e a k v a n i s h e s a f t e r t h e first analysis.
O n s a m p l e s t a k e n f r o m the p e r i p h e r y (96% of the disc r a d i u s ) , an i n t e r g r a n u l a r

120
~[ • TR-specimen j I f: ' ' t
|- o TR-specimen, Heat treated[
100 -.] • RZ-specimen /----.i.......................... i ................. T---q
- / [] TZ-specimen ~ |

60 p
........

~ 0 i i i , b " ' l ............ |


0 0,2 0,4 0,6 0,8 1
r/R
Fig. 8. Charpy V energy along the radius of the disc. The testing was performed at room
temperature.
Embrittlement of a steam turbine rotor 303

140

] ~ 18% of the radius ;

120-"1 ~ 64% .........! i ~ ~"...... ~" ..... ; 2 " ~ - ~ , ' ~ " - t


[ ~ 96% ,~ i ," ~" [ 4
100 -.-I/ _L m
| t.....~..i ................ ~....~
t;'i 1/ .............,~i/ .........._L.. _1

~ 80
! ,"
,,'i
o= Ii 72 J i 'j,•~ ~: ,']il ," •
> i i ,'1 ,' l~l ' 64J
;~ 60 .....................i.......................i...,.-.-I- .............. i............... ~: ....... f ................. i ..........................
I~ i ~ / ,,~ '

--w--~:~ - - /
83'c 110"c

- 100 -50 0 50 100 150 200


Temperature [°C]
Fig. 9. Charpy V energy vs test temperature. DBTT is defined as the temperature where the
Charpy V energy is equal to the mean value of the upper and the lower shelf energies. DB'IT
at 18, 64 and 96% of the radius is 83, 110 and 14 °C, respectively.

fracture surface could not be established. Even though the samples were cooled to a
t e m p e r a t u r e o f a b o u t - 1 0 0 °C t h e f r a c t u r e d s u r f a c e w a s t r a n s g r a n u l a r .

4. D I S C U S S I O N

L a r g e r c a r b i d e s g r o w f r o m s m a l l e r c a r b i d e s d u r i n g t h e t e m p e r i n g o f t h e disc
m a t e r i a l ( c o m p a r e F i g s 4 a n d 5) a n d t h e e f f e c t o f p r e c i p i t a t i o n h a r d e n i n g is r e d u c e d .

;~ 18% of the radius

1 0 0 . ii ' 'liii]' I 64%


. . . . I ' ' 'l .......
. ~-~.0
. . ..........
. . . *. ............
. . . ~.";]."~
. . ..... ~'~', ".;"

96% •

80 -- i ....................... - ..... e.' L ...................... 11 ...................... #..:


,i ..........................
: ~ l: I !
i , e /
i , i "i
i t i e •
60 ......................... ~............................ t----f ......................................... * - ~ .......... t ...........................................
i e e i
::e t 2
50% ' ' :
I
4o .........................i......................./ ........................... " ' ~ ....... : ; .................................................

i tt it
[ ~t OocT ° ,~iSeI • , ] .........
20 ........................" [ 7 ....................................................

¢.q, " 75oc 106"C


i t

- 100 -50 0 50 100 150 200


Temperature [*C]
Fig. 10. Percent ductile fracture appearence of Charpy V fracture surfaces vs test temperature.
FATT50% at 18, 64 and 96% of the radius is 75, 106 and 0 °C, respectively.
304 MAGNUS GLADH and PER WALLt~N

10 H I l I I I I I I I I E I-~

:~ I I I /] I ~ , lmergranular surface I I ' [


/ ~ Mo Mo C ~ .! ,--
~ 4

0 [ I I I I I I l I I I
i00 200 300 '400 500 GO0
KINETIC ENERGY.eV

Fig. 11. Differentiated A u g e r spectra of transgranular and intergranular fracture surfaces at


69% o f the disc radius.

This is the main reason for the reduction in hardness from the periphery to the centre
of the disc (Fig. 7). The consequence of tempering should be a more ductile material
in the centre than in the periphery, but the effect of embrittlement is much stronger
as clearly shown by the Charpy V tests (i.e. fast fracture). The reduction in Charpy V
energy is more apparent than the reduction in hardness and has reached a minimum
level already at about 70% of the radius compared to about 40% of the radius for the
hardness.
The transition temperature measured as D B T T is generally a few degrees higher
than FATT. D B T T can be defined by many methods and is more direct than FATT,
where a subjective analysis of the fractured surface has to be done. Notice that the
transition temperature is lower at 18% than at 64% of the disc radius even though the
temperature during service is higher in the central part. An important factor that has
to be considered is the anisotropy in the turbine disc due to forging during
manufacturing.
The enrichment of phosphorus at prior austenite grain boundaries together with a

105 130
KINEIIC ENERGY, eV

Fig. 12. D e p t h profile showing p h o s p h o r o u s at an intergranular surface.


Embrittlement of a steam turbine rotor 305

growth of carbides there causes an embrittlement of the material during high-


temperature service. In the present investigation phosphorus was detected as a thin
layer with an analysed peak-to-peak ratio of 1:6 compared to iron. The corresponding
value according to the nominal composition of the material is about 1:9000. The
Auger spectra in Fig. 11 show higher amounts of Cr, Mo and C in the form of
carbides on the intergranular surface than on the transgranular surface. The fact that
the specimens taken from the periphery could not be fractured with a resulting
intergranular surface confirms that embrittlement has not occurred there.
The formation of carbides is of great importance in understanding the whole
process of temper embrittlement. Qu and McMahon [7] have studied the influence of
Mo on temper embrittlement where Mo acts as a scavenger for phosphorus. The
scavenging effect is lost if Mo is precipitated as carbides. This will result in a material
sensitive to temper embrittlement. An often quoted diagram made by Baker and
Nutting [8] shows the sequence of carbide formation on tempering of a 2.25Cr-lMo
steel. According to the diagram, carbides and a compound of Mo3P are initially
formed at temperature of 600 °C. During isothermal ageing an Mo-rich carbide, M2C,
will be formed and will apparently be more stable than the M o - P compound. The
carbide formation in the present investigation of a 3Cr-0.5Mo steel seems to be
similar to the carbide formation in a 2.25Cr-lMo steel.
Another study of a 2.25Cr-lMo by Masuyama et al. [9] shows that MTC3 and M6C
carbides are formed at the grain boundaries during creep at 600 °C for 6000 h.
Initially, Cr-rich M T C 3 carbides are formed and these are transformed during creep
into M6C carbides. The M6C carbides are enriched in Mo due to the migration of Mo
from the matrix into the carbides and end up as a stable Mo3Fe3C carbide.

5. CONCLUSIONS

There is a sharp reduction in the hardness, from 80 to 40%, of the turbine disc
radius. This corresponds to a change in microstructure with coarsening of Cr- and
Mo-rich carbides in the same region.
The Charpy V energy in the central part of the turbine disc has been reduced to a
quarter of the Charpy V energy in the periphery. The reduction in toughness is
caused by embrittlement, where the main reason is the diffusion of phosphorus to
prior austenite grain boundaries.

Acknowledgements--The authors wish to acknowledge ABB STAL, Finspong, for a fruitful co-operation
during the project and the Swedish National Board for Industrial and Technical Development for financial
support. ABB STAL, Sydkraft, Stockholm Energi and Vattenfall sponsored the experimental work. The
authors also wish to express their gratitude to Professor Yngve Bergstrrm, University College of Falun
Borl~inge, for valuable discussions.

REFERENCES

1. R. Viswanathan, Damage Mechanisms and Life Assessment of High Temperature Components, ASM
International, Metals Park, OH (1989).
2. G. F. Vander Voort, Metals Handbook (10th edn), Vol. I, ASM International, Materials Park, OH
(1990).
3. T. H. Courtney, Mechanical Behaviour of Materials, McGraw-Hill, Singapore (1990).
4. G. Krauss, Steels Heat Treatment and Processing Principles, ASM International, Materials Park, OH
(1990).
5. G. E. Dieter, Mechanical Metallurgy, McGraw-Hill, London (1988).
6. L. Johansson and E.-L. Bergquist, ABB STAL RT TMM 50/93 (1993).
7. Z. Qu and C. J. McMahon Jr, Metall. Trans A 14A, 1101 (1983).
8. R. G. Baker and J. Nutting, J. Iron Steel Inst. 192,257 (1959).
9. F. Masuyama, N. Nishimura and Y. Takeda, Clean Steels Technology: Proceedings of the R. L Jaffee
Memorial Symposium, p. 53 (1992).