Machining damage (a surface flaw) and porous-region-flaw (a volume flaw) populations limited the flexure strengths of a commercially available silicon nitride at 25°C, while these same flaws, along with inclusions, limited flexure strengths at 850°C. The machining damage and porous region flaws were the primary interest in the present study because they caused failure at both temperatures. Censoring revealed that the two-parameter Weibull strength distributions representing each flaw population changed as a function of stressing rate (i.e., dynamic fatigue) and temperature. A decrease in the Weibull scaling parameter is recognized as an indication of slow crack growth or time-dependent strength reduction in monolithic ceramics. Available life prediction codes used for reliability predictions of structural ceramic components consider the slow crack growth phenomenon. However, changes in the Weibull modulus are infrequently observed or reported, and typically are not accounted for in these life prediction codes. In the present study, changes in both Weibull parameters for the strength distributions provided motivation to the authors to survey what factors (e.g., residual stress, slow crack growth, and changes in failure mechanisms) could provide partial or full explanation of the observed distribution changes in this silicon nitride. Lastly, exercises were performed to examine the effects of strength distribution changes on the failure probability prediction of a diesel exhaust valve. Because the surface area and volume of this valve were substantially larger than those of the tested bend bars, it was found that the valve’s failure probability analysis amplified some slight or inconclusive distribution changes which were not evident from the interpretation of the censored bend bar strength data.

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