Initiation stage of cracks is considered as a key issue, but more and more component integrity analyses investigate the crack propagation and arrest possibility. This study deals with physical mechanisms of cleavage crack propagation and numerical computations related to brittle fracture. Dynamic effects, involved in unstable cleavage crack propagation, have to be taken into account to properly depict brittle crack propagation, arrest and possible propagation re-initiation events.
Experiments were carried out on thin CT specimens made of 16MND5 PWR vessel steel at five temperatures (−150°C, −125°C, −100°C, −75°C, −50°C). In addition to standard crack gages, an innovative experimental technique has been used to determine crack propagation. By the means of developments on the experimental protocol (improvements of isolation and airtightness of the thermal chamber, optimization of the experimental protocol to eliminate ice in the thermal chamber and in order to have a good acquisition quality), use of a high-speed framing camera was made possible to measure crack propagation on a CT mirror polished surface. This optical device, combined with this optimized experimental process, has allowed the study of straight and branching crack paths with high accuracy. The framing camera (520 000 fps up to 1 100 000 fps) has allowed to have a very accurate estimation of crack speed even up to 1000 m.s−1 and also to detect some phases of crack branching during propagation and phases of arrest-re-initiation. Numerical computations, based on X-FEM and combining a local non linear dynamic approach with a RKR type fracture stress criterion, have been performed to depict experimental crack behavior.
This paper describes this innovative experimentation and the interpretation by FE calculations and SEM observations associated with quantitative 3D optical microscopy.