Hot section components in high performance aircraft and rocket engines are increasingly being made of single crystal nickel superalloys such as PWA1480, PWA1484, CMSX-4 and Rene N-4 as these materials provide superior creep, stress rupture, melt resistance and thermomechanical fatigue capabilities over their polycrystalline counterparts. Fatigue failures in PWA1480 single crystal nickel-base superalloy turbine blades used in the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) fuel turbopump are discussed. During testing many turbine blades experienced Stage II non-crystallographic fatigue cracks with multiple origins at the core leading edge radius and extending down the airfoil span along the core surface. The longer cracks transitioned from stage II fatigue to crystallographic stage I fatigue propagation, on octahedral planes. An investigation of crack depths on the population of blades as a function of secondary crystallographic orientation (β) revealed that for β = 45+/- 15 degrees tip cracks arrested after some growth or did not initiate at all. Finite element analysis of stress response at the blade tip, as a function of primary and secondary crystal orientation, revealed that there are preferential β orientations for which crack growth is minimized at the blade tip.
To assess blade fatigue life and durability extensive testing of uniaxial single crystal specimens with different orientations has been tested over a wide temperature range in air and hydrogen. A detailed analysis of the experimentally determined Low Cycle Fatigue (LCF) properties for PWA1480 and SC 7-14-6 single crystal materials as a function of specimen crystallographic orientation is presented at high temperature (75 F – 1800 F) in high-pressure hydrogen and air. Fatigue failure parameters are investigated for LCF data of single crystal material based on the shear stress amplitudes on the 24 octahedral and 6 cube slip systems for FCC single crystals. The max shear stress amplitude [Δτmax] on the slip planes reduces the scatter in the LCF data and is found to be a good fatigue damage parameter, especially at elevated temperatures. The parameter Δτmax did not characterize the room temperature LCF data in high-pressure hydrogen well because of the noncrystallographic eutectic failure mechanism activated by hydrogen at room temperature. Fatigue life equations are developed for various temperature ranges and environmental conditions based on power-law curve fits of the failure parameter with LCF test data. These curve fits can be used for assessing blade fatigue life.