skip to main content

Title: 2015 Accomplishments-Tritium aging studies on stainless steel. Effects of hydrogen isotopes, crack orientation, and specimen geometry on fracture toughness

This study reports on the effects of hydrogen isotopes, crack orientation, and specimen geometry on the fracture toughness of stainless steels. Fracture toughness variability was investigated for Type 21-6-9 stainless steel using the 7K0004 forging. Fracture toughness specimens were cut from the forging in two different geometric configurations: arc shape and disc shape. The fracture toughness properties were measured at ambient temperature before and after exposure to hydrogen gas and compared to prior studies. There are three main conclusions that can be drawn from the results. First, the fracture toughness properties of actual reservoir forgings and contemporary heats of steel are much higher than those measured in earlier studies that used heats of steel from the 1980s and 1990s and forward extruded forgings which were designed to simulate reservoir microstructures. This is true for as-forged heats as well as forged heats exposed to hydrogen gas. Secondly, the study confirms the well-known observation that cracks oriented parallel to the forging grain flow will propagate easier than those oriented perpendicular to the grain flow. However, what was not known, but is shown here, is that this effect is more pronounced, particularly after hydrogen exposures, when the forging is given a larger upset.more » In brick forgings, which have a relatively low amount of upset, the fracture toughness variation with specimen orientation is less than 5%; whereas, in cup forgings, the fracture toughness is about 20% lower than that forging to show how specimen geometry affects fracture toughness values. The American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) specifies minimum specimen section sizes for valid fracture toughness values. However, sub-size specimens have long been used to study tritium effects because of the physical limitation of diffusing hydrogen isotopes into stainless steel at mild temperatures so as to not disturb the underlying forged microstructure. This study shows that fracture toughness values of larger specimens are higher and more representative of the material’s fracture behavior in a fully constrained tritium reservoir. The toughness properties measured for sub-size specimens were about 65-75% of the values for larger specimens. While the data from sub-size specimens are conservative, they may be overly so. The fracture toughness properties from sub-size specimens are valuable in that they can be used for tritium effects studies and show the same trends and alloy differences as those seen from larger specimen data. Additional work is planned, including finite element modeling, to see if sub-size specimen data could be adjusted in some way to be more closely aligned with the actual material behavior in a fully constrained pressure vessel.« less
  1. Savannah River Site (SRS), Aiken, SC (United States). Savannah River National Lab. (SRNL)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Savannah River Site (SRS), Aiken, SC (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
36 MATERIALS SCIENCE; 08 HYDROGEN; mechanical properties; type 304L stainless steel; type 316L stainless steel; type 21-6-9 stainless steel; hydrogen embrittlement; J-integral; helium embrittlement; forging