Hydrogen-Assisted crack propagation in austenitic stainless steel fusion welds

B. P. Somerday, M. Dadfarnia, D. K. Balch, K. A. Nibur, C. H. Cadden, P. Sofronis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objective of this study was to characterize hydrogen-assisted crack propagation in gas-tungsten arc (GTA) welds of the nitrogen-strengthened, austenitic stainless steel 21Cr-6Ni-9Mn (21-6-9), using fracture mechanics methods. The fracture initiation toughness and crack growth resistance curves were measured using fracture mechanics specimens that were thermally precharged with 230 wppm (1.3 at. pct) hydrogen. The fracture initiation toughness and slope of the crack growth resistance curve for the hydrogen-precharged weld were reduced by as much as 60 and 90 pct, respectively, relative to the noncharged weld. A physical model for hydrogen-assisted crack propagation in the welds was formulated from microscopy evidence and finite-element modeling. Hydrogen-assisted crack propagation proceeded by a sequence of microcrack formation at the weld ferrite, intense shear deformation in the ligaments separating microcracks, and then fracture of the ligaments. One salient role of hydrogen in the crack propagation process was promoting microcrack formation at austenite/ferrite interfaces and within the ferrite. In addition, hydrogen may have facilitated intense shear deformation in the ligaments separating microcracks. The intense shear deformation could be related to the development of a nonuniform distribution of hydrogen trapped at dislocations between microcracks, which in turn created a gradient in the local flow stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2350-2362
Number of pages13
JournalMetallurgical and Materials Transactions A: Physical Metallurgy and Materials Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Metals and Alloys


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