Constitutive behavior and fracture properties of tempered martensitic steels for nuclear applications

Raul Alejandro Bonadé
EPFL, 2006
EPFL thesis

In this study, the tensile and fracture properties and the microstructure of the reduced-activation tempered martensitic steel Eurofer97 have been investigated. This technical alloy is a 9%Cr steel developed within the European fusion material research program. To a lesser extend, the plastic flow properties of a equiaxed ferritic Fe9%Cr model alloy were also studied for comparison with those of the tempered martensitic structure. The main objectives of this work are described hereafter: to correlate the microstructural features with the plastic flow properties measured by the tensile tests for both the Eurofer97 steel and the model alloy. The correlation established should be reflected in a physically-based model of plastic flow. to study the fracture properties of the Eurofer97 steel in details in the lower ductile-to-brittle transition region. to calculate with finite element modeling the stress fields at the crack tip. This information is further used in conjunction with a local approach model for quasi-cleavage to reconstruct the fracture toughness-temperature curve. Tensile tests were carried out at different imposed nominal strain rate at several temperatures from 77K up to 473K, on both the Eurofer97 steel and the Fe9%Cr model alloy. The temperature dependence of the yield stress was precisely determined. As expected for body-centered cubic (BCC) materials, a strong increase of the yield stress by decreasing temperature, below 200 K, was observed. At higher temperatures, the temperature dependence of the yield stress was found much weaker, being associated with the temperature dependence of the shear modulus. Efforts were made to analyze in details the post-yield behavior (strain-hardening) as a function of temperature. The post-yield behavior was modeled using the Kocks phenomenological model based on the competition of storage and annihilation of dislocations. While this model was originally developed for face-centered cubic (FCC) metals where the rate-controlling mechanism of dislocation motion is the dislocation-dislocation interaction, we used is model in the high temperature domain (T>200K) of BCC materials, to model the strain-hardening evolution of the Eurofer97 steel and the model alloy. The values obtained for the key parameters of the model, namely the dislocation mean free path and annihilation coefficient, were found consistent with the microstructural features. The parameters temperature-dependence observed was also consistent with the physics of two basic mechanisms of dislocation storage and annihilation (dynamical recovery). For the low temperature domain, the strain-hardening model was modified to account for the strong Peierls lattice friction, based on an original idea of Rauch. Transmission electron microscopy observations were done to characterize the undeformed microstructures and their evolution with strain. A clear correlation was established between the stress-dependence of the strain-hardening and the microstructures. Fracture toughness tests on the Eurofer97 steel were performed with 0.2T C(T) and 0.4T C(T) specimens in the lower transition. Five temperatures were selected at which many tests were repeated to determine the amplitude of the inherent scatter of quasi-cleavage. The temperature were chosen in such a way that the measure fracture toughness remain below 150 MPa m1/2, which correspond for the 0.4T C(T) at a M value larger than 70 at the highest temperature. Such a M value for 0.4T C(T) specimens is known to ensure enough constraint. An attempt to analyze the experimental data in the framework of the master-curve approach by following the ASTM E-1921 standard was done. It was clearly demonstrated that the assumed shape of the toughness-temperature curve as described in the ASTM E-1921 standard for the reactor pressure vessel steels is not adequate for the tempered martensitic Eurofer97 steel, which present a particularly steep transition. Our Eurofer97 fracture database was then compared to the existing one on another similar steel, the F82H. Differences in the amplitude of the scatter of both steels was found while the lower bound of the toughness-temperature curve, describing the 1% failure probability was shown to be the same. 2D finite element simulations of the compact tension specimens were performed at various temperatures using the constitutive laws determined previously. The stress field around the crack tip were calculated and used to determine a local criterion of quasi-cleavage. The criterion is defined by the attainment of a critical stress encompassing a critical area. The lower bound of the toughness-temperature curve was then successfully reconstructed by using this local criterion. Finally, the relationship between the critical area and the applied stress intensity factor for the C(T) specimen was shown to follow a power law whose coefficients are dependent on the real dimensions of the specimen. Such a relationship allows scaling the C(T) toughness data from one size to another in case of in-plane constraint loss.

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