Conventional approaches to assess fatigue under combined thermal and mechanical loading often utilize a fatigue design curve. In this paper models based on the physics and mechanics for the initiation and growth of fatigue cracks in stainless steel are first explained. The models are based on experimental evidence gathered for the initiation and growth of small cracks created during strain controlled laboratory tests. This evidence is then linked with data for the growth of large fatigue cracks in stainless steel. In the paper these models are coupled with finite element analyses to explore the fatigue initiation and growth of cracks in stainless steel pipes subjected to thermal cycling. It is assumed that the material behaviour is elastic-perfectly plastic, rate independent and fatigue occurs in air.
The stress and strain fields for pipes subjected to a range of thermal loading conditions are explored. The fields are shown to be sensitive to parameters such as the Biot and Fourier numbers that include pipe dimensions, physical properties, dwell time and thermal conditions. Of particular interest is the temperature range and dwell time during thermal loading. Finite element analyses are then used to determine the stress and strain ranges created by thermal loading and these ranges are used in the crack initiation and growth models to estimate fatigue life.