Creep and Anelastic Deformation in Austenitic Steels

Rao, Ashwin (2010). Creep and Anelastic Deformation in Austenitic Steels. PhD thesis The Open University.



This study examines the creep behaviour of austenitic steels under service temperatures, to determine the effect of creep on material performance. Nuclear power plant components are in regular use at temperatures greater than 450°C, where creep deformation plays a dominant role in limiting the lifetime of the material. The prime aim of this study was to characterise the effect of load-reductions on the creep behaviour of austenitic steels (AISI type 316H).

In-service materials seldom operate at a constant load and/or temperature. The supply demand, maintenance operations, refuelling, etc. will result in large variation of load and temperature acting on the material. Experiments where load/temperature removals during a creep test were therefore conducted. These unloading procedures result in material recovery of the accumulated creep strain (anelasticity). This phenomenon will influence the material properties such as creep life and ductilities. Creep life was found to increase by 2-3 times whereas creep ductilities decreased by 50% when compared to steady-load creep data under identical conditions.

The occurrence of anelasticity suggested the presence of a material backstress. The origin and evolution of this internal stress was investigated using neutron diffraction and TEM microscopy. Lattice strain measurements were conducted in-situ using neutron diffraction during a creep test which consisted of load/unload cycles. Experimental results suggest that creep strain is equivalent to plastic strain at a granular level. The data also shows intergranular micro-stresses are introduced into the material by primary creep. Anisotropic behaviour of the individual crystal planes results in formation of tensile and compressive intergranular stresses in individual grain families. Residual compressive stresses drive this anelastic deformation.

TEM examinations of samples stopped during the unload show changes in dislocation and precipitate morphologies during the plastic strain recovery phase. Evidence of a changing dislocation substructure during the load-reduction period was found. Examinations have also shown carbide densities change during the unload. Pipe diffusion is a possible mechanism which can be used to explain this occurrence. The changing precipitate and dislocation state will influence the strengthening mechanisms, which in-turn will affect the deformation characteristics. These microstructural observations were introduced into a damage mechanics model. Predictions of material behaviour using this model have shown good agreement with experimental data.

Outcomes of this project, have established that changes in creep deformation mechanisms will greatly influence material properties. Deformation history of the material will affect the intergranular stress state which in turn will affect the elastic and plastic response of the material. The effect of plastic strain history must be considered and incorporated accounted in any design and assessment procedure.

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