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ME 215 Engineering Materials I

Chapter 7

Brittle Fracture and Impact Properties

Mechanical Engineering University of Gaziantep

Dr. Ouzhan YILMAZ Assistant Professor

A great deal of attention was directed to the brittle failure of welded ships and tankers. Failures occured during winter months and when the are in heavy seas and anchored at dock. This fact focussed on that normally ductile mild steel can become brittle under certain conditions. Therefore, researches aimed to understand the mechanism of brittle fracture and fracture in general. While the brittle failure of ships concentrated great attention to brittle failure in mild steel. Brittle failures in tanks, pressure vessels, pipelines, and bridges have been noticed.

There are five kinds of fracture in metals based on the nature of process: I. Ductile, II. Brittle, III. Adiabatic shear, IV. Creep, V. Fatigue fracture.
Three basics factors contribute to a brittle-cleavage type of fracture: (1) triaxial state of stress (2) Low temperature (3) High strain rate or rapid rate of loading

There are circumstances under which certain ductile materials behave as brittle. Two important cases of this type of failure (i.e. brittle failure of ductile materials) are:
1. 2.

Fatigue failure (which was studied previously) Brittle fracture (which is going to be treated here).

Common examples of catastrophic failures of structures caused by brittle fracture are:

Welded ships & tankers made of mild steel (during World War II)
Rails of railways during cold winter periods.

Brittle fractures in steel structures usually occur without visible or audible warnings at stresses less than nominal Sy value. Such fractures usually initiate at sharp notches and crack-like defects, and may subsequently propagate through a complete structure at faster than speed of sound.

Load-time history for an instrumented Charpy test (Dieter, 1988)

Brittle Fracture
Radiating pattern of markings is important as they point back towards the origin of fracture, allowing the point of crack initiation to be traced (Fig. 1).
origin of fracture radiating markings

Figure 1

Brittle Fracture
Fig. 2 shows the crack initiation and propagation with herringbone type surface markings. The direction of crack propagation is the opposite to the direction of crack initiation.

direction of crack propagation

Figure 2

Impact Properties
Many engineering components are subjected to suddenly applied loads and they are expected to transmit or absorb this impact load.

The energy of impact load can be absorbed by part as elastic or plastic deformation.
In design stage, it is aimed that this energy of impact load is absorbed as elastic deformation. After load is passed, this elastic strain is released or transmitted, and the structure does not suffer permanent deformation.

Impact Properties
However, the elastic range may be exceeded due to unexpected service conditions or faulty design. In such cases, most ductile metals exhibit some plastic deformation in two ways:
(1) (2)

it can redistribute the stress (thus, reducing harmful effects the visible appearance of plastic deformation itself can be a warning for taking further precautions.

In a brittle metal structure, no noticeable deformation is observed and fracture happens without warning. Due to this fact, necessary cautions must be taken when using brittle metals (e.g. using large safety factors).

Impact Properties
However, serious problems can arise when a ductile metal fractures in a brittle manner without any prior plastic deformation.

Many metals which show a ductile behaviour in static tensile tests exhibit a brittle behaviour under impact loading at low temperatures.

Thereby, the information from tensile tests is not enough to predict the behaviour in such cases.


Impact Properties
The property of a material relating to work required to cause rupture is toughness, which depends on the ductility and ultimate strength.

It is known that a high-rate of loading results in an increase in strength, but a reduction in ductility. When forces are applied suddenly for very short time intervals, another effect of such forces is to produce stress waves.


Impact Properties
Not all materials respond in the same way to variations in strain rate. For instance, a slowly applied point load shatters the glass while a highspeed bullet punctures a fairly clean hole. Similarly, sealing wax behaves in a ductile manner at low strain rate, but snaps into two under a sharp blow.


Impact Velocity
The toughness of a material does not vary greatly over a considerable range in striking velocity. However, above some critical speed (varying from material-to-material), the energy required for rupture of a material appears to decrease rapidly. This critical velocity is associated with rate of propagation of plastic strain and is effected by the specimen length. In elastic region, velocity of plastic wave propagation in a cylindrical bar (Vp) is:

Vp E

E : Youngs modulus, MPa : mass density, kg/mm3

Velocity of stress wave (Vp) should be distinguished from the velocity of particles in stressed zone (Vx):

Vx V p d

e : plastic strain corresponding e to Vx

Following equation shows that stress (S) depends on particle velocity (Vx) in addition to E and :

S Vx E

Specimen Shape
The specimen shape also has a marked effect upon its capacity to resist impact loads. A plain ductile bar will not fracture under an impact load at normal temperatures. If the specimen is notched, fracture can happen under a single blow. Many different notch configurations used in impact tests are suggested in ASTM E23 & DIN 50115. However, Charpy and Izod are the two standard classes of specimens used for notched-bar impact testing (Fig. 3).

Figure 3 14

Impact Testing (Pendulum Type)

In pendulum type impact testing, the impact load is produced by swinging of an impact weight (W = m * g) from initial height (h0) through the arc of a circle, thus striking and fracturing the notched specimen (Fig. 4). After that, the weight reaches maximum height (h1). Neclecting frictional losses, the energy used to fracture the specimen (U) is then approximately defined as:
Absorbed Energy = Initial Potential Energy Final Potential Energy (energy to rupture) (energy before rupture) (energy after rupture)

Figure 4

U = m * g * (h0 h1)

The absorbed energy (U), indicated on the scale of tester, is expressed in joule (i.e. N*m) or kg*m in metric system and in inch-pounds in British system. This energy value is sometimes called impact toughness.

Charpy and Izod Type Impact Tests

The Charpy specimen is supported at the ends and struck in the middle (Fig. 5).
Figure 5 Charpy

However, the Izod specimen is a cantilever beam with a notch on the tension side to ensure fracture when the impact load is applied (Fig. 6).
Charpy and Izod type impact tests bring out the notch behavior (Brittleness vs Ductility) by applying a single overload of stress. The notch behavior in an individual test applies to specimen size, notch geometry and testing conditions. Thus, such a behavior cannot be generalized to the other specimen sizes or conditions.
Figure 6 16 Izod

Impact Fracture

ductile fracture

brittle fracture


Factors Affecting Impact Properties

Impact toughness values are greatly influenced by the testing conditions.

most pronounced is the effect of temperature on notch behaviour of material. Tangential striking velocity should not be less than 3 m/s nor more than 6 m/s.

Rigidity of testing machine and its parts are important since some energy is absorbed by the machine itself.


Factors Affecting Impact Properties

1 Temperature: . The notched-bar impact test has the greatest
importance in determining ductile-to-brittle transition of a metal.

This transition occurs at a temperature below which the material is brittle and fractures with a low energy absorption & low ductility, and above which it is ductile.

The transition actually covers a range of temperatures in which degree of brittleness increases gradually as temperature falls.
It is very difficult to make a universal definition of transition temperature as two different materials having the same transition temperature may have different failures. Therefore, there are many definitions of this temperature.

Factors Affecting Impact Properties

The definitions of transition temperature (Fig. 7) are as follows: Ta: The average temp. corresponding to minimum impact strength (15 ft/lb).

Tb: The lowest temp. (Fracture Transition Plastic - FTP) at which the specimen exhibits 100% shear fracture.
Tc: The temp. (Fracture Appearance Transition Temperature - FATT) at which 50% of fracture is ductile.

Fig. 7

Td: The average temp. between ductile and brittle fracture, i.e. (Tb+Tf)/2.

Te: Like Ta, it is a special temp. (Ductility Transition Temperature - DTT) based on an arbitrary low-impact energy toughness.
Tf: The temp. (Nil Ductility Temperature - NDT) for 100% brittle fracture.

Factors Affecting Impact Properties

2. Composition: In metals, the impact testing is mostly applied to steel, testing of nonferrous materials is seldom. - The main factors influencing brittleness of steels are: composition, heat treatment and section size. - The greater is the hardness, the higher is the transition temperature.

Considering the effect of composition in steels, carbon content plays important role (Fig. 8).

Figure 8

The optimum combination of properties The effect of other elements on in quenched and tempered low alloy impact properties can be found steel occurs for 0.3 - 0.4 % C. in the textbook.

Factors Affecting Impact Properties

3. Grain Size: As the grain size increases, transition temperature increases and fracture stress decreases. Thereby, it is possible to improve ductility and toughness of steel by obtaining ultrafine grain size.

4 Microstructure: The shape of carbide . precipitates in steel has a great effect on impact toughness.
A tempered martensitic structure has the best combination of strength and fracture toughness. Tensile properties of such structures of the same carbon content and the same hardness are alike, but great variations in their impact toughness with temperature.


Factors Affecting Impact Properties

5. Orientation: The orientation of test bar in a formed product affects both the impact energy and the value of Fracture Appearance Transition Temperature,FATT, as well as the tensile ductility. For rolled products, orientation does not have a great influence on FATT.

Effect of specimen orientation of Charpy transition-temperature curves (Dieter, 1988)


Ductile-to-Brittle Transition (Embrittlement)

1. Hydrogen Embrittlement: Hydrogen produces severe embrittlement in many metals. Even very small amount of hydrogen can cause cracking in steel and titanium. It may be introduced during melting and entrapped during solidification, or it may be picked up during heat treatment, acid pickling, electroplating or welding.

2. Temper Embrittlement: Tempering some steels within 450 - 590 C results in temper brittlement, which is manifested by increase in impact transition temperature. It is due to segregation of certain elements to grain boundaries, giving local hardening to fracture.
3. Blue Brittleness: Low-carbon steels exhibit two types of aging which causes an increase in transition temperature: quench aging & strain aging. Strain aging is the slow increase in hardness in steels finished by cold work (mainly cold rolling). Blue brittleness is attributed to strain aging caused by heating cold worked steel to around 205 C.

Alternative Impact Tests

It is not possible to obtain realistic results by conventional tests if specimens are of thicknesses greater than Charpy and Izod specimens. So, there are two alternative tests of practical importance: 1. Drop Weight Test: This test (ASTM E208) is employed to determine NDT of ferritic steels of 15.9 mm or thicker. A simple rectangular specimen is subjected to a single impact load (free-falling weight with energy of 340-1630 J) at selected temperatures to determine max. temp. at which specimen breaks (Fig. 9). A crack-starter weld (63.5 mm long & 12.7 mm wide) is deposited on tension side of specimen. An artificial notch is cut at the centre of weld bead length to start crack, and the specimens are tested to determine the NDT.

Figure 9 25

Alternative Impact Tests

2. Dynamic Tear Test: This test (ASTM E604) is used to determine resistance of a material to rapid progressive fracturing. Single-edge notched beam is impact loaded in 3-point bending (Fig. 10). The notch is machined to start a crack. The impact energy is imparted by a swinging pendulum or a drop-weight of highly sufficient capacity at a test velocity of 4.9 - 8.5 m/s. Hence, the total energy loss during separation is recorded. At temperatures below NDT, the fracture is flat and completely brittle without any shear lips (Fig. 11). Above NDT, absorbed energy increases, surface begins to develop shear lips becoming progressively more dominant. At FTE and above, fracture is fully ductile.
Figure 10

Figure 11 26

Impact Testing of Plastics

The impact tests for plastics can be divided into two groups: a) using instruments where energy is imparted by a swinging pendulum. b) using free-falling weights or other impactors to impart energy. The pendulum type machines are similar to those used for testing metals, but smaller in size and capacity to comply with low-energy requirements of plastics.

Charpy and Izod type plastic specimens were given in Fig.4. As a standardized type, ISO Charpy specimen is: a rectangular bar (120 mm long, 15 mm wide, 10 mm thick), which can be tested without or with rectangular notch (2 mm wide and 3.3 mm high).

Impact Testing of Plastics

It is more difficult to interpret the results of impact testing for plastics:

1. The test may be too severe (may cause brittle behavior unrealistically).
2. The test result may be dependent more on crack propagation resistance than ability to resist crack initiation. 3. Test conditions may give misleading results even on a comparative basis. 4. Test conditions may probably be unrelated to service conditions.