High Temperature Fatigue Behaviour of Austenitic Stainless Steel : Microstructural Evolution during Dwell-Fatigue and Thermomechanical Fatigue

Abstract: The global energy consumption is increasing and together with global warming from greenhouse gas emission, a need for more environmentally friendly energy production processes is created. Higher efficiency of biomass power plants can be achieved by increasing temperature and pressure in the boiler section, this would increase the generation of electricity along with the reduction in emission of greenhouse gases e.g. CO2. The generation of power must also be flexible to be able to follow the demands of the energy market and this results in a need for cyclic operating conditions with alternating output and multiple start-ups and shut-downs.Because of the need for flexibility, higher temperature and higher pressure of future biomass power plants, the demands of improved mechanical properties of the materials used for the components are also increased. Properties like creep strength, maintained structural integrity, thermomechanical fatigue resistance and high temperature corrosion resistance are critical for materials used in the next generation biomass power plants. Highly alloyed austenitic stainless steels are known to possess such good high temperature properties and are relatively cheap compared to the nickel-base alloys, which are already used in high temperature cyclic conditions for other applications. The behaviour of austenitic stainless steels subjected to future biomass power plants operating conditions are not yet fully investigated.This thesis presents research that includes investigations of the mechanical and microstructural behaviour during high temperature cyclic conditions of austenitic stainless steels. This is done using thermomechanical fatigue testing, dwell-fatigue testing and impact toughness testing at elevated temperatures. Material service degradation as an effect of microstructural evolution is investigated by ageing of some test specimens before testing. Microscopy is used to investigate the connection between the mechanical behaviour and the microstructural deformation- and damage mechanisms of the austenitic stainless steels after testing.The results show that creep-fatigue interaction damage, creep damage and oxidation assisted cracking are present during high temperature cyclic conditions. In addition, ageing results in a less favourable microstructural configuration which negatively affects the resistance to high temperature damage mechanisms. An example of this is the lowering of impact toughness due to precipitation and coarsening of detrimental phases of some aged austenitic stainless steels. Moreover, TMF testing of aged austenitic stainless steels induce oxidation assisted cracking and an embrittling effect that cause significant cyclic life decrease. The creep-fatigue interaction behaviour during dwell-fatigue testing of two austenitic stainless steels generates various crack propagation characteristics. The higher alloyed material shows interchanging intra- and intergranular propagation with dynamic recrystallization, while the lower alloyed material shows propagation exclusively along the grain boundaries by the assistance of fatigue induced slip bands interaction with grain boundary precipitates.The research of this thesis provides a deeper understanding of the structural integrity, deformation mechanisms, damage mechanisms and fracture mechanisms during high temperature cyclic conditions of austenitic stainless steels. Long term, this is believed to contribute to development of suitable materials used as components of future biomass-fired power plants to achieve sustainable power generation.

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