Environmetally Assisted Cracking in Metals under Extreme Conditions
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Environmentally Assisted cracking (EAC) is a very critical materials science problem that concerns many technological areas such as petrochemical engineering, aerospace operations and nuclear power generation, in which cracking or sudden failure of materials may happen at stress far below the tensile strength. This type of corrosion is initiated at the microscopic level and is complicated due to the combination of chemistry (reaction caused by corrosive agents) and mechanics (varying load). As EAC is generally related to the segregation of impurity elements to defects (mainly grain boundaries), the symptoms of risk may not be apparent from the exterior of the metal components: hence EAC remains latent and gives no sign of warning until the failure occurs. Due to its intricate nature, conducting experiments on this phenomenon involves difficulties and requires much effort. In this work, we employed advanced molecular simulation techniques to study EAC in order to give insight into its atomistic behavior. First, Density-Functional Theory (DFT) method was used to investigate the fundamental processes and mechanism of EAC-related issues at the nanoscale level, with two case studies concerning the stress corrosion in iron and hydrogen embrittlement in palladium. When segregating to the grain boundary (GB) of iron, different impurity elements such as sulfur, phosphorus and nitrogen raise corrosion failures in a variety of ways. Hydrogen atoms, due to their mobility and small atomic size, are able to form high occupation at crystal defects, but show different interactions to vacancy and GB. Then, we used the classical Molecular Dynamics (MD) method to gain an understanding of the dynamic response of materials to mechanical load and the effects of temperature, strain and extreme conditions (high pressure shock compression) on structural properties. The MD simulations show that hydrogen maintains the highest localization at grain boundaries in the vicinity of ambient temperatures, and grain boundaries are the preferred nucleation sites for dislocations and voids. This computational work, using DFT and MD techniques, is expected to contribute to the better understanding on chemistry and mechanisms of complex environment-assisted cracking phenomenon at a fundamental level in order to beneficially complement conventional laboratory approaches.
density functional theory
stress corrosion cracking
grain boundary segregation
Pham, Hieu (2011). Environmetally Assisted Cracking in Metals under Extreme Conditions. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from