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Nuclear Engineering and Design 240 (2010) 3616–3620

Nuclear Engineering and Design 240 (2010) 3616–3620 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Nuclear Engineering

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Nuclear Engineering and Design

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journal homepage: Acoustic emission of fatigue crack in pressure pipe under

Acoustic emission of fatigue crack in pressure pipe under cyclic pressure

Qiong Ai a , Cai-Xue Liu b , Xiang-Rong Chen a,c, , Pan He b , Yao Wang b

a School of Physical Science and Technology, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610064, China

b Nuclear Power Institute of China, Chengdu 610041, China

c International Centre for Materials Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110016, China



Article history:

Received 28 December 2009 Received in revised form 17 March 2010 Accepted 7 May 2010





The hydraulic pressure experiment was conducted on a pipe specimen to simulate active defect evolve- ment of main cooling piping in the nuclear power plant (NPP), and the acoustic emission technique was used to monitor the acoustic emission (AE) from it incessantly. It was found that the changes of real time AE is sensitive to movement of microscopic structure. The amplitude and energy show activity of fatigue crack well. The differential distribution of amplitude together with cumulative event number not only revealed trend of active defect well but also gave out some hint of potential leak in piping. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Acoustic emission (AE) is sensitive to microstructural changes, which makes it a very useful tool for materials research and struc- tural integrity monitoring. As an experimental tool, AE has been used in extensive materials study, including plastic deformation (Lebyodkin et al., 2009), crack initiation and propagation (Arora and Tangri, 1981; Kim and Sachse, 1986; Smith and Morton, 1973), fracture (Meinders and Vliet, 2008; Niccolini et al., 2009; Picallo and López, 2008) and phase transitions or transformation induced by magnetic field (Ludwig et al., 2009), electric field (Dul’kina and Roth, 2005; Vakhrushev et al., 1997), temperature (Bonnot et al., 2008), and so on. As a nondestructive technology, AE has been developed for detecting active flaws in various engineering struc- tures, such as airframes (McBride et al., 1993), steel bridges (Gong et al., 1992), pressure vessels and pipelines (Augustyniak et al., 2002; Fowler, 1992; Sinclair et al., 1975). AE applications relat- ing to nuclear reactor were also developed in many nuclear power plants (NPP) worldwide, for detecting defects during pre-service and requalification hydrotests (Runow, 1985; Ying, 1979), or for continuous surveillance of fatigue crack propagation (Hutton and Kurtz, 1985; Hutton et al., 1987) and leak (Smith et al., 1979). Much useful information on crack was acquired from above works, including its orientation (Kim and Sachse, 1986), size (Smith and Morton, 1973), growth speed (Arora and Tangri, 1981), and location (Sinclair et al., 1975). But these works accomplished within

Corresponding author at: School of Physical Science and Technology, Sichuan University, Chengdu 610064, China. E-mail address: (X.-R. Chen).

0029-5493/$ – see front matter © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


ordinary specimens or small fatigue cycle numbers (Arora and Tangri, 1981; Smith and Morton, 1973), in which the AE charac- teristics were hard to be extended to engineering structures. On the other hand, it was hard to obtain the full AE of engineering structures because of their long in-service time or other causes. For example, in several decades lifetime of the main cooling pipeline, there may be a lack of human resources or malfunction of equip- ment, which might make the AE data incomplete. For finding connections between AE and fatigue evolvement of engineering structures, we carried out this experimental study. And we hope to understand full fatigue AE feature of piping before it leaks, which is helpful to forecast leakage or even a nuclear accident in NPP. In this paper, we introduced a hydraulic pressure experi- ment on a pipe specimen simulating evolvement of fatigue crack, and we used AE to monitor the whole fatigue process continuously. The result analysis of AE indicated that the changes of amplitude and energy were sensitive to that of microscopic structure. The differential distribution of amplitude and cumulative event num- ber also gave some hint of potential leak. The paper is organized as follows: the AE principle is briefly introduced in Section 2, the experiment details in Section 3, the data results and discussion in Section 4 and the summary of experiment in the last part.

2. AE principle

Acoustic emission (AE) is defined by the American Society for the Testing of Materials as the class of phenomena whereby tran- sient elastic stress waves are generated by the rapid release of energy from localized sources within a material (American Society for the Testing of Materials, 1982). Since 1950, a special feature of AE named Kaiser effect had reported by Kaiser (Kaiser, 1950), that

Q. Ai et al. / Nuclear Engineering and Design 240 (2010) 3616–3620


Nuclear Engineering and Design 240 (2010) 3616–3620 3617 Fig. 1. Method of extracting AE parameters. is,

Fig. 1. Method of extracting AE parameters.

is, if crystals of metals were stressed while the associated AE was monitored and the stress was then released, then no new emissions would occur unless the previous maximum stress was exceeded. In cyclic loading experiments, this AE memory effect appears from cycle to cycle, which makes the peak stress value progressively increase (Mavromatou et al., 2008). These elastic stress waves travel through solid materials and can be detected by suitable receiving devices on the solid surface, for example AE transducers, which can detect wave motions and convert them to electricity signals. There are two different shapes of signal—burst emission and continuous emission, rooting in dif- ferent acoustic origins. The AE referred in this paper is the burst type relating to crack nucleation and growth. When the amplitude of a burst-type signal crosses the default threshold, it is called an acoustic emission event. The AE parameters in time domain were extracted from the signal processing like Fig. 1, usually including rise time, duration, amplitude, ring down count and energy. To obtain more information, power spectrum of full waveform was processed too. Then the changes of acoustic source can be derived from these AE parameters.

3. Details of experiment

The test devices and equipments included the pipe specimen, the hydraulic pressure platform and the AE monitoring system. The hydraulic pressure platform provided the pipe specimen with pres- sure cycles, and the AE monitoring system detected and processed the acoustic emission data.

3.1. Pipe specimen

The raw material of pipe specimen is austenitic stainless steel 0Cr18Ni10Ti. The pipe specimen was 500 mm in length, 12 mm in wall thickness, and 152 mm in outer diameter. One flaw was fabricated by the electrical discharge machining (EDM) in the centre of inner wall of the pipe specimen. Three AE transducers were fixed on both ends and middle of pipe specimen by adhe- sive.

3.2. The hydraulic pressure platform

The pipe specimen was fixed on hydraulic pressure platform to form a loop displayed in Fig. 2. The hydraulic pressure plat- form consisted of hydraulic pressure devices, controlling system and cooling system. The fluid stored in oil tank is L-HM 46 anti- wear hydraulic oil and the loop was driven by a pump. Pressure regulator and overflow valve regulated pressure to 19 MPa. Then control valve periodically released the high pressure to 2 MPa. After one cycle, the hot oil was cooled down by cooling sys- tem and at last returned to oil tank. Some loop parameters, like pressure and temperature, were measured by the control- ling system. The pressure cycle was performed at a frequency of 1.6 Hz with a sinusoidal wave in ambient laboratory condi- tions.

3.3. AE monitoring system

The AE monitoring system was developed independently, including signal detector, pre-amplifiers and a signal processing unit (PC with SQL Server 2005 and LabVIEW 8.2). The detector comprised three PAC R15 acoustic emission resonant piezoelec- tric sensors and three PAC 2/4/6-type pre-amplifiers. In loading process, PC controlled A/D start–stop, discrimination of amplitude, data sampling and sampled data analysis in time and frequency domain, displayed waveform, extracted signal parameters and recorded them into database. After being filtered, amplified and A/D conversion, AE amplitude was discriminated based on Eq. (1):

20 log


U 0

> P


Here U L was the amplitude of a burst AE signal, U 0 was the amplitude of background noise signal, and P was a discrimina- tion threshold. Once the above discrimination condition was met, the signals would be further processed, from which AE parameters could be extracted and later recorded to database.

from which AE parameters could be extracted and later recorded to database. Fig. 2. Loop of

Fig. 2. Loop of hydraulic pressure apparatus.


Q. Ai et al. / Nuclear Engineering and Design 240 (2010) 3616–3620

al. / Nuclear Engineering and Design 240 (2010) 3616–3620 Fig. 3. AE amplitude (symbol) versus loading

Fig. 3. AE amplitude (symbol) versus loading cycles and amplitude trend (red solid curve). (For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of the article.)

4. Results and discussion

The AE data was recorded by the AE monitoring system after the experiment, including original signals and database records. The full waveforms of original signals were analyzed to revise records and delete some futile ones in database. Only the AE parameters of burst signal meeting some certain conditions were selected for detailed real time analysis of fatigue crack below.

4.1. Amplitude and energy versus loading cycles

The amplitude and energy versus loading cycle were displayed in Figs. 3 and 4. On the whole, the AE amplitude and energy increased with fatigue cycles and they shared much similarity. In the first 2.2 × 10 5 cycles, about 38 h, the AE amplitude fluctuated below 4 mV and energy below 10 3 except for a few ones. Then a growth presented and lasted for a short time with evident higher amplitude, energy and event probability. In the next around 45 h there were just a few weak AE events, the corresponding amplitude and energy were even less than in the first 40 h. In the last 55 h the amplitude, energy and event probability all jumped noticeably, about 15 dB higher in amplitude and several centuplicate higher in energy. A short intermission at 7.0 × 10 5 cycles cut the last 55 h into

at 7.0 × 10 5 cycles cut the last 55 h into Fig. 4. AE energy

Fig. 4. AE energy (symbol) versus loading cycles and energy trend (red solid curve). (For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of the article.)

two different phases. The event probability rose up in the first phase but descended down in the second one, which was well marked in Figs. 3 and 4. The whole AE progression of fatigue crack indicated that fatigue crack propagation was not in regularity. Once fatigue crack expanded a step, the energy garnered in materials was released. There are two stages for a defect evolving to a fatigue crack, crack initiation and crack propagation. From the view of fracturemechan- ics, the tip of flaw machined by EDM is not spiculate enough and some process is necessary for a pre-fabricated defect to initiate crack, which, in our experiment, could be what happened in the first 38 h. In other words, the 2.2 × 10 5 pressure cycles might form plas- tic zone around pre-fabricated defect. Perhaps because the plastic deformation was dominant, the burst AEs forming micro-cracks were a few, as was shown in Figs. 3 and 4. The first distinct peak of amplitude and energy might mark the first local yielding of plas- tic zone and event rate could help us to identify cracking too. And loading of the next 45 h possibly extended and extended the plastic zone. The last process of crack propagation lasted about 64 h before leak, which was divided into three different sections by tendency of amplitude and energy. In the first one, amplitude, energy and event rate all rose and rose to a high level, which might mean that the fatigue crack grew and grew. Then a short intermission ended the up trend. The event probability trended up before the intermis- sion and down after it, which could indicate the crack growth rate speeded up early and reined in later. When leak happened, it was just 20 h that the second phase lasted. The intermission makes the contrary AE trend appear, which may help us to recognize possible leak.

4.2. Differential distribution of amplitude

The event number is counted respectively at each level of ampli- tude. It is convenient to use a simple parameter f(V) to describe the whole distribution of amplitude. The relationship of the two can be expressed as:

dF(V ) = f (V )dV

where dF(V) is the number of AE event with amplitude level between V and V dV, and f(V) is the function of amplitude dis- tribution. In large dynamic range of signal, f(V) is usually linear distribution in double logarithmic with slope equal to m, which is


f(V) = n 0 V m


Connect Eqs. (2) and (3) and express it as logarithmic type:

log f (V ) = −m log V + log n 0


The parameters m and n 0 are the slope and intercept of the line (Yuan et al., 1985). The AE data was averagely divided into four parts by time, about 37.5 h for every part. All the four parts were processed according to Eqs. (2)–(4) and the results of linear fitting were demonstrated in Fig. 5. The original data denoted in dot was linearly fitted in red line with a formula. At first of loading, defect was loaded to initi- ate crack and broaden plastic zone. Perhaps the microstructure of materials was changed in a tiny margin step by step, and the ampli- tudes of most AE events were low, which made m big. Later the fatigue crack propagated at a high grade, events with high ampli- tude increased, while m decreased. Notably, there were some AE events with high amplitude level bearing relatively high possibility of occurrence, which were labeled in blue dot in Fig. 5 and inap- propriate to be a part of linear fitting. They also partly revealed seriousness of damage in piping. The four m descended slower and slower, gradually forming an asymptote approaching to about 2.5 when the fatigue defect

Q. Ai et al. / Nuclear Engineering and Design 240 (2010) 3616–3620


Nuclear Engineering and Design 240 (2010) 3616–3620 3619 Fig. 5. Experimental (black dot symbol) and linear

Fig. 5. Experimental (black dot symbol) and linear fitting (red solid line) differential distribution of amplitude.

(red solid line) differential distribution of amplitude. Fig. 6. Cumulative AE event count and event rate

Fig. 6. Cumulative AE event count and event rate versus time.

was about to become a through-wall crack. Several similar depen- dencies were found in other AE experiments (Petri et al., 1994; Garcimartin et al., 1997) of loaded composite materials. Also the exponent m = 2.5 is in excellent agreement with existing theoreti- cal models of AE during fracture of amorphous materials (Pradhan and Hemmer, 2008; Picallo and López, 2008). Based on above analysis, we believe that the AE with high ampli- tude may help us to investigate the gravity of flaws in piping, and the value of m may assist us in avoiding potential leak in pipeline before it is approximately equal to 2.5.

4.3. Cumulative events and event rate versus time

The relationship of the total AE events and event rate versus time is shown in Fig. 6. At the beginning, the cumulative AE events are few, less than 100 in the initial 39.3 h. The first growth formed an evident angle ˛ 1 which could be relevant to cracking of flaw. At the next stable phase, the plastic zone might be extended and

extended. The angle ˛ 2 appeared when crack propagated. The third stable phase lasted much shorter than the former one, and then a dramatically increasing of AE followed with angle ˛ 3 . When crack propagated, the cumulative AE number linearly increased. And the faster crack propagated, the bigger the angle would be. The event rate corresponded well with cumulative event, and it showed the AE change with more clearly details. In order to understand fatigue crack well, some notation linking to the above analysis was noted in Fig. 6. The first peak could reveal the cracking. And the shorter sta- ble phases might expose the criticality of the fatigue crack, namely predicting hidden leak.

5. Summary

For structural integrity monitoring of main cooling piping in the NPP, AE monitoring was used to investigate fatigue crack on pres- sure pipe under cyclic hydraulic pressure. The real time mode of AE was used to display evolvement of active defect. The amplitude, energy and event number were discussed in different ways to get the AE characters of fatigue crack. The experiment results indicated that, AE amplitude and energy can be used to detect active defects effectively; differential distribution of AE amplitude and AE event number may help us to forecast potential leakage.


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