A micromechanical-based 2D framework is presented to study the rolling contact fatigue (RCF) in rail steels using finite element method. In this framework, the contact patch of rail and wheel is studied by explicitly modeling the grains and grain boundaries, to investigate the potential origin of RCF at the microstructural level. The framework incorporates Voronoi tessellation algorithm to create the microstructure geometry of rail material, and uses cohesive zone approach to simulate the behavior of grain boundaries. To study the fatigue damage caused by cyclic moving of wheels on rail, Abaqus subroutines are employed to degrade the material by increasing the number of cycles, and Jiang-Sehitoglu fatigue damage law is employed as evolution law. By applying Hertzian moving cyclic load, instead of wheel load, the effect of traction ratio and temperature change on RCF initiation and growth are studied. By considering different traction ratios (0.0 to 0.5), it is shown that increasing traction ratio significantly increases the fatigue damage. Also by increasing traction ratio, crack initiation migrates from the rail subsurface to surface. The results also show that there are no significant changes in the growth of RCF at higher temperatures, but at lower temperatures there is a measurable increase in RCF growth. This finding correlates with anecdotal information available in the rail industry about the seasonality of RCF, in which some railroads report noticing more RCF damage during the colder months.

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