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Rate and strain gradient effects on creep-fatigue crack growth in nickel-base superalloys

posted on 27.07.2021, 20:32 by Joshua PribeJoshua Pribe
An important challenge in predicting fatigue and creep crack growth is describing crack growth rates under transient conditions. Transient conditions occur when similitude is violated at the crack tip due to the applied loads or material behavior. Crack growth models like the Paris law, valid for homogeneous materials under constant-amplitude cyclic loading or sustained loading, no longer apply. Transient crack growth rates are strongly influenced by changes in plastic deformation at the crack tip. Activation of time-dependent damage and viscoplastic deformation at high temperatures further complicates the problem.

This thesis advances knowledge and predictive capabilities for transient creep and fatigue crack growth in metals, with specific applications to two technologically-relevant nickel-base superalloys. Finite element computations of crack growth following overloads and in multilayered materials are conducted. Crack extension is an outcome of the boundary value problem through an irreversible cohesive zone model and its interaction with plasticity and viscoplasticity in the bulk material.

First, fatigue crack growth in rate-independent materials is analyzed. The plasticity formulation considers both plastic strain and gradients of plastic strain, which produce hardening beyond that predicted by classical plasticity models. The computations demonstrate that hardening due to plastic strain gradients plays a significant role in transient fatigue crack growth following overloads. Fatigue crack growth transients associated with material inhomogeneity are studied through the case of a crack growing toward interfaces between plastically dissimilar materials. Interactions between the interface strength and the yield strength mismatch are found to govern crack growth rates near the interface. Hardening due to plastic strain gradients is important for finding the critical conditions associated with crack bifurcation at an interface and penetration through an interlayer.

Subsequently, crack growth in rate-dependent materials is analyzed. For materials characterized by power-law viscoplasticity, fatigue crack growth rates following overloads are found to depend strongly on the material rate sensitivity. The computations predict a transition from acceleration- to retardation-dominated post-overload crack growth as the rate sensitivity decreases. The predicted post-overload crack growth rates show good agreement with high-temperature experimentally-measured trends for Alloy 617, a solid solution strengthened nickel-base superalloy proposed for use in next-generation nuclear power plants. The results demonstrate why Alloy 617 behaves in a relatively brittle manner following overloads despite being characterized as a creep-ductile material. Crack growth is also studied in materials where rate dependence is captured through time-dependent damage and dislocation storage and dynamic recovery processes. This approach is relevant for high-strength creep-brittle materials, in which the viscoplastic zone grows with the advancing crack. The computations predict crack growth retardation for several loading waveforms containing overloads. The amount of retardation depends strongly on the overload ratio and subsequent unloading ahead of the crack tip. The predicted post-overload crack extension shows good agreement with high-temperature experimentally-measured trends for Alloy 718, a precipitation-hardened nickel-base superalloy used in turbine engines and power generation applications. The results demonstrate why Alloy 718 behaves in a ductile manner following overloads, despite being characterized as a creep-brittle material.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Thomas Siegmund

Additional Committee Member 2

Ganesh Subbarayan

Additional Committee Member 3

Farshid Sadeghi

Additional Committee Member 4

Michael D. Sangid

Additional Committee Member 5

Jamie J. Kruzic

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