Journal article

Testing continuum concepts for hydrogen embrittlement in metals using atomistics

Hydrogen embrittlement is a pervasive mode of degradation in many metallic systems that can occur via several mechanisms. Here, the competition between dislocation emission and cleavage at a crack tip is evaluated in the presence of H. At this level, embrittlement is predicted when the critical stress intensity required for emission rises above that needed for cleavage, eliminating crack tip plasticity and blunting as toughening mechanisms. Continuum predictions for emission and cleavage are made using computed generalized stacking fault energies and surface energies in a model Ni-H system, and embrittlement is predicted at a critical H concentration. An atomistic model is then used to investigate actual crack tip behavior in the presence of controlled arrays of H atoms around the crack tip. The continuum models are accurate at low H concentrations, below the embrittlement point, but at higher H concentrations the models deviate from the atomistic behavior due to alternative dislocation emission modes. Additional H configurations are investigated to understand controlling features of the emission process. In no cases does crack propagation occur in preference to dislocation emission in geometries where emission is possible, indicating that embrittlement can be more complicated than envisioned by the basic brittle-ductile transition.


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