Effect of microstructure and alloy chemistry on hydrogen embrittlement of precipitation-hardened Ni-based alloys

G. C. Obasi, Z. Zhang, D. Sampath, Roberto Morana, R. Akid, M. Preuss

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The sensitivity to hydrogen embrittlement (HE) has been studied in respect of precipitation size distributions in two nickel-based superalloys: Alloy 718 (UNS N07718) and Alloy 945X (UNS N09946). Quantitative microstructure analysis was carried out by the combination of scanning and transmission electron microscopy and energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS). While Alloy 718 is mainly strengthened by γ″, and therefore readily forms intergranular δ phase, Alloy 945X has been designed to avoid δ formation by reducing Nb levels providing high strength through a combination of γ′ and γ″. Slow strain rate tensile tests were carried out for different microstructural conditions in air and after cathodic hydrogen (H) charging. HE sensitivity was determined based on loss of elongation due to the H uptake in comparison to elongation to failure in air. Results showed that both alloys exhibited an elevated sensitivity to HE. Fracture surfaces of the H precharged material showed quasi-cleavage and transgranular cracks in the H-affected region, while ductile failure was observed toward the center of the sample. The crack origins observed on the H precharged samples exhibited quasi-cleavage with slip traces at high magnification. The sensitivity is slightly reduced for Alloy 718, by coarsening γ″ and reducing the overall strength of the alloy. However, on further coarsening of γ″, which promotes continuous decoration of grain boundaries with δ phase, the embrittlement index rose again indicating a change of hydrogen embrittlement mechanism from hydrogen-enhanced local plasticity (HELP) to hydrogen-enhanced decohesion embrittlement (HEDE). In contrast, Alloy 945X displayed a strong correlation between strength, based on precipitation size and embrittlement index, due to the absence of any significant formation of δ phase for the investigated microstructures. For the given test parameters, Alloy 945X did not display any reduced sensitivity to HE compared with Alloy 718 when considering high-strength conditions despite the absence of intergranular δ phase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1167-1181
Number of pages15
JournalMetallurgical and Materials Transactions A: Physical Metallurgy and Materials Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes

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