Hydrogen embrittlement contributions to fatigue crack growth in a structural steel

P.J. Cotterill, J.E. King

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The detrimental effects of a hydrogen atmosphere on the fatigue resistance of BS 4360 steel have been assessed by a comparison of crack growth rates in air and hydrogen at a low cycling frequency (0.1Hz), and at a number of temperature (25, 50 and 80 °C). The crack propagation rates in air are almost independent of temperature over this range, but those measured in hydrogen differ by more than an order of magnitude between 25 and 80 °C. The greatest enhancement is seen at 25 °C and at high values of ΔK, the maximum occurring between 40–45 MPa √m at each temperature. There is little hydrogen contribution to crack growth at values of ΔK below 20 MPa √m for R = 0.1.
    The enhancement of crack growth rates is reflected by the presence of ‘quasi-cleavage’ facets on the fatigue fracture surfaces of specimens tested in hydrogen. These are most apparent where the greatest increases in growth rate are recorded. The facets show linear markings, which run both parallel and perpendicular to the direction of crack growth. The former are analogous to the ‘river’ lines noted on brittle cleavage facets, and reflect the propagation direction. The latter are more unusual, and indicate that facet formation by hydrogen embrittlement during fatigue is a step-wise process.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)447-452
    Number of pages6
    JournalInternational Journal of Fatigue
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 1991


    • embrittlement
    • gas production plants
    • hydrogen atmosphere


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