The effect of hydrogen on the fracture toughness properties of Types 304L, 316L and 21-6-9 forged stainless steels was investigated. Fracture toughness samples were fabricated from forward-extruded forgings. Samples were uniformly saturated with hydrogen after exposure to hydrogen gas at 34 MPa or 69 MPa and 623 K prior to testing. The fracture toughness properties were characterized by measuring the J-R behavior at ambient temperature in air. The results show that the hydrogen-charged steels have fracture toughness values that were about 50–60% of the values measured for the unexposed steels. The reduction in fracture toughness was accompanied by a change in fracture appearance. Both uncharged and hydrogen-charged samples failed by microvoid nucleation and coalescence, but the fracture surfaces of the hydrogen-charged steels had smaller microvoids. Type 316L stainless steel had the highest fracture toughness properties and the greatest resistance to hydrogen degradation.

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