The role of crack tip shielding in retarding the initiation and growth of fatigue cracks has been examined in metallic composite microstructures (consisting of hard and soft phases), with the objective of achieving maximum resistance to fatigue. Specifically, duplex ferritic-martensitic structures have been developed in AISI 1008 and 1015 mild steels to promote shielding without loss in strength. The shielding is developed primarily from crack deflection and resultant crack closure, such that unusually high long crack propagation resistance is obtained. It is found that the fatigue threshold ΔK TH in AISI 1008 can be increased by more than 100 Pct to over 20 MPa Vm, without sacrifice in strength, representing the highest ambient temperature threshold reported for a metallic alloy to date. Similar but smaller increases are found in AISI 1015. The effect of the dual-phase microstructures on crack initiation and small crack (10 to 1000 ώm) growth, however, is markedly different, characteristic of behavior influenced by the mutual comPctition of intrinsic and extrinsic (shielding) "toughening" mechanisms. Accordingly, the composite microstructures which appear to show the highest resistance to the growth of long cracks, show the lowest resistance to crack initiation and small crack growth. In general, dual-phase steels are found to display remarkable fatigue properties, with fatigue limits as high as 58 Pct of the tensile strengths and fatigue thresholds in the range of 13 to 20 MPaVm.
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