A statistical, physical-based, micro-mechanical model of hydrogen-induced intergranular fracture in steel

P. Novak, R. Yuan, B. P. Somerday, P. Sofronis, R. O. Ritchie

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360 Citations (Scopus)


Intergranular cracking associated with hydrogen embrittlement represents a particularly severe degradation mechanism in metallic structures which can lead to sudden and unexpected catastrophic fractures. As a basis for a strategy for the prognosis of such failures, here we present a comprehensive physical-based statistical micro-mechanical model of such embrittlement which we use to quantitatively predict the degradation in fracture strength of a high-strength steel with increasing hydrogen concentration, with the predictions verified by experiment. The mechanistic role of dissolved hydrogen is identified by the transition to a locally stress-controlled fracture, which is modeled as being initiated by a dislocation pile-up against a grain-boundary carbide which in turn leads to interface decohesion and intergranular fracture. Akin to cleavage fracture in steel, the "strength" of these carbides is modeled using weakest-link statistics. We associate the dominant role of hydrogen with trapping at dislocations; this trapped hydrogen reduces the stress that impedes dislocation motion and also lowers the reversible work of decohesion at the tip of dislocation pile-up at the carbide/matrix interface. Mechanistically, the model advocates the synergistic action of both the hydrogen-enhanced local plasticity and decohesion mechanisms in dictating failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-226
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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