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Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151


www.elsevier.com/locate/engfailanal

Fretting fatigue in overhead conductors: Rig design


and failure analysis of a Grosbeak aluminium cable steel
reinforced conductor
C.R.F. Azevedo a,*, A.M.D. Henriques b, A.R. Pulino Filho c,
J.L.A. Ferreira b, J.A. Araujo b
a
Universidade de Sao Paulo, Dep. Engenharia Metalurgica e Materiais, CEP, 05508-901 Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil
b
Universidade de Braslia, Dep. Engenharia Mecanica, CEP, 70910-900 Braslia, DF, Brazil
c
Universidade de Braslia, Dep. Engenharia Civil, CEP 70910-900 Braslia, DF, Brazil

Received 3 January 2008; accepted 20 January 2008


Available online 6 February 2008

Summary

The performance optimisation of overhead conductors depends on the systematic investigation of the fretting fatigue
mechanisms in the conductor/clamping system. As a consequence, a fretting fatigue rig was designed and a limited range
of fatigue tests was carried out at the middle high cycle fatigue regime in order to access an exploratory SN curve for a
Grosbeak conductor, which was mounted on a mono-articulated aluminium clamping system. Subsequent to these prelimin-
ary fatigue tests, the components of the conductor/clamping system, such as ACSR conductor, upper and lower clamps, bolt
and nuts, were subjected to a failure analysis procedure in order to investigate the metallurgical free variables interfering on
the fatigue test results, aiming at the optimisation of the testing reproducibility. The results indicated that the rupture of the
planar fracture surfaces observed in the external Al strands of the conductor tested under lower bending amplitude (0.9 mm)
occurred by fatigue cracking (1 mm deep), followed by shear overload. The V-type fracture surfaces observed in some Al
strands of the conductor tested under higher bending amplitude (1.3 mm) were also produced by fatigue cracking
(approximately 400 lm deep), followed by shear overload. Shear overload fracture (45 fracture surface) was also observed
on the remaining Al wires of the conductor tested under higher bending amplitude (1.3 mm). Additionally, the upper and
lower Al-cast clamps presented microstructure-sensitive cracking, which was folowed by particle detachment and formation
of abrasive debris on the clamp/conductor tribo-interface, promoting even further the fretting mechanism. The detrimental
formation of abrasive debris might be inhibited by the selection of a more suitable class of as-cast Al alloy for the production
of clamps. Finally, the bolt/nut system showed intense degradation of the carbon steel nut (fabricated in ferriticpearlitic
carbon steel, featuring machined threads with 190 HV), with intense plastic deformation and loss of material. Proper selec-
tion of both the bolt and nut materials and the nishing processing might prevent the loss in the clamping pressure during the
fretting testing. It is important to control the specication of these components (clamps, bolt and nuts) prior to the start of
large scale fretting fatigue testing of the overhead conductors in order to increase the reproducibility of this assessment.
2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

*
Corresponding author. Tel.: +55 11 30915916; fax: +55 11 30914308.
E-mail address: c.azevedo@usp.br (C.R.F. Azevedo).

1350-6307/$ - see front matter 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.engfailanal.2008.01.003
C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151 137

Keywords: Fretting fatigue; Overhead conductors; Rig design; Failure analysis; Grosbeak

1. Introduction

Worldwide, overhead transmission lines are reaching their middle age, between 25 and 40 years old, and
individual components are showing the rst signs of deterioration. As a consequence, these components
should be repaired and replaced as part of the normal maintenance routine [1,2]. In-service conductors
are exposed to external loads and, to minimise the possible damages induced by wind, vibration dampers
(known as spacer dampers) are positioned regularly on the transmission line by the use of clamps. The
conductors are subjected to maximum curvature near the clamps as well as compressive forces exerted
by the clamping devices. Contact stresses in a clamping region can be divided into two categories: static
and cyclic. Static stress is the sum of constant axial load (span weight), bending stress (change in curvature
over the clamp), local clamping pressure and keeper pressure [35]. When the conductor is subjected to
external tension, an internal torque is induced trying to unwind the conductor and, as a result, any var-
iation in tension excites a torsional vibration mode, transmitting a torque to the support. Depending on
the clamping force, the conductor can rotate in the support and cause fretting damage. Additionally,
reversed-bending cycles of the conductor can be induced by wind near clamps and other ttings (maximum
curvature) [2,3,6].
The overhead lines are aected by the wind-induced vibrations in two ways [1,7,8]:

 Aeolian vibration (vortex shedding): caused by wind blowing over individual conductors, which induces
high frequency vibration (between 10 and 40 Hz) due to the creation of vortices downstream of the conduc-
tor, promoting alternating bending stresses. It occurs at relatively low speeds for transmission lines, which
are positioned normal to the prevailing wind.
 Sub-conductor oscillation (wake-induced vibrations): caused by wind-induced instabilities downstream of
the conductor. Classical oscillation of a square quad bundle conductor results in the horizontally biased
elliptical of the conductors at low frequencies of about 1 Hz, due to the interaction between vertical and
horizontal wind-induced forces. The presence of a tting during this oscillation promotes the exing of
the aluminium strands, which might promote fatigue or fretting failure after tens of millions of cycles.

The failure of a conductor of the 460 kV overhead transmission line located along the crossing of the
Parana River was previously investigated [9]. As a result of this failure, a blackout took place in Brazil in
2002, reaching approximately 67 million inhabitants. Investigation indicated that the rupture of the strands
occurred under gross slip fretting regime induced by sub-conductor oscillation. Few suggestions in the opti-
misation project of the clamping systems and the use of more ecient detection techniques for damage survey
of transmission lines were made. The optimisation of the performance of overhead conductors depends on the
study of the fretting fatigue of the overhead conductor/clamping system, so that an optimum assembly con-
dition can be determined for each conductor/clamping system combination. In this sense, the failure analysis
of a set of conductor cable, upper and lower clamps, bolt and nuts after the fretting fatigue test of a clamping/
ACSR conductor shall provide important feed-back in order to decrease the number of free variables inter-
fering on the fatigue results and to improve, therefore, its reproducibility.

1.1. Fretting fatigue testing

Fatigue of conductor strands takes place within ttings that restrain conductor motion due to aeolian
vibration, provoking oscillatory bending stresses. The suspension clamp is a critical device as it imposes a
severe constraint in the vertical direction due to its rigidity. The computation of such stresses at the clamp
mouth is an important parameter for the line design and maintenance against fatigue. In the case of overhead
conductors, the fatigue inducing stresses at the contact between individual wires or between the external wires
138 C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151

and the clamp surface are not accessible to direct measurement and their estimation by any sort of numerical
procedure is not an easy task either due to the complexities involved in inner conductor mechanics, such as
plasticity, variable exural stiness and wear due to the partial slip contact regime [1012]. Therefore, they
are usually calculated based on semi-empirical formulae that provide a nominal idealised stress, which can
be used to establish and compare the fatigue strength of dierent conductors in a stress basis. In this setting,
the PoenbergerSwart (PS) formula has been widely used [13] to relate bending amplitudes with stresses in
an Al wire of the conductors outer layer. It was derived based on BernoulliEuler beam theory, assuming that
the conductor works as a xed cantilever beam under tension with a prescribed vertical displacement at the
free edge. More specically it can be written as shown in Eqs. (1)(4)
ra KY b 1
where ra is the dynamic bending stress amplitude (zero to peak); Yb is the conductors vertical displacement
range (peak to peak)
Ea dp2
K N=mm3  2
4epx  1 px
where Ea is Youngs modulus (MPa); d is the diameter (mm) of an aluminium wire in the outer layer; x is the
distance on the cable between the last point of contact between cable and clamp and the vertical displacement
measuring point (see Fig. 4)
r
T
p 3
EI
where T is the static conductor tension (everyday stress, in Newton) at average ambient temperature; EI is the
exural stiness (N mm2) of the cable (see Eq. (4))
pd 4a pd 4
EImin na Ea ns E s s 4
64 64
where na, Ea and da are, respectively, the number, the individual diameter and Youngs modulus of the Al
wires; while ns, Es and ds are the respective values for the steel wires.
In this approach, the conductor is considered as a bundle of individual wires free to move relative to each
other and the exural stiness takes its minimum value EImin (see Eq. (4)). For smaller bending amplitudes,
the individual strands would stick together and, as a result, the conductor would behave as a solid rod, increas-
ing the exural stiness to a maximum. Formulae that considers the stickslip theory to compute EI and hence
the dynamic bending stress were proposed elsewhere [10,11], but will not be addressed in the present work.

2. Experimental procedure

2.1. Fretting fatigue rig

A fretting fatigue rig for overhead conductors was designed and mounted at the Mechanics of Materials
Research Group of the University of Braslia (see Fig. 1). The rig is composed by a 42 m long active span
and a 5 m long passive span. At the edge of the passive span, the cable is anchored in a foundation block.

Fig. 1. Schematic view of the fatigue rig for overhead conductors.


C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151 139

Fatigue of the conductor strands occurs within the clamp xed to a metallic suspension assembly over a move-
able concrete block, which can be displaced over a 12 m rail track. An electronically controlled shaker is con-
nected to the cable within the active span in order to excite it in the vertical plane simulating aeolian vibration.
This shaker can also change position as it lies on a 1.5 m long track. At the right-hand side of the active span,
the cable pass onto a pulley, being connected to a lever arm loaded by a dead weight, which stresses the cable.
Due to temperature variation or creep, the position of such rigid arm may change and an actuator is then
attached to it so that no signicant changes to the static pre-load are observed in the cable. A load cell installed
in point 1 (see Fig. 1) provides the value of this pre-load along the test duration. The test is controlled by a
prescribed displacement measured by a laser sensor positioned at 89 mm from the last point of contact
between cable and clamp (see point 2 in Fig. 1). The signal of such sensor is in a closed control loop that
assures the shaker works to maintain the same amplitude of displacement at this position. The failure of
the Al strands is detected by a rotation sensor located in point 3 (see Fig. 1).

2.2. Test procedure and materials

Tests have been carried out on a typical ACSR Grosbeak conductor, composed of two aluminium (1350-
H19) aluminium layers (16 wires in the outer and 10 in the inner layer) wrapped on a steel core (7 strands),
with 25.16 mm of nominal diameter. The cable rated tensile strength (RTS) is 112 kN (11.43 ton). Upper and
lower clamps were made by permanent mould-cast aluminium. The system is locked by a 60 N m torque
applied to the nuts attached to a pair of U-bolts. Before activating the locking system, a set of wedges is
adjusted beneath the plate where the suspension clamp lies on. The aim of these wedges is to simulate the
sag angle between cable and clamp in eld. For these tests the specied sag angle was 10.
A photo of the whole suspension assembly containing the cable/clamp xing is shown in Fig. 2a. Note that
the vertical position of the clamp is dened so that the cable passing through it has the same height of the cable
in the opposite side of the bench over the pulley. Next, the dead weight is loaded to pre-load the cable with a

Fig. 2. Photographs of: (a) suspension assembly for cable/clamp system; (b) lever arm with actuator; (c) shaker with connection device and
sensors; and (d) failure detection system, consisting of blades and sensors.
140 C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151

typical value corresponding to 20% of the RTS (22.4 kN). The system is left unclamped for 6 h to allow
accommodation. The clamp locking system is then activated and the lever arm actuator is adjusted to maintain
the load within a 2% range of its nominal value (see Fig. 2b). A resonance search was carried out to dene an
appropriate test frequency (the chosen test frequency is in the range between 13.5 and 14.5 Hz). This is the
closest system resonance that was possible to achieve considering the levels of peak-to-peak vertical displace-
ment, prescribed at 89 mm from the last point of contact between cable and clamp.
The output signal from a contactless laser displacement sensor positioned at this measuring point (see
Fig. 2a) is used to control the vibration amplitude for the duration of the test (see Fig. 2c). The control soft-
ware is set to inform if the level of displacement varies more than 3% of the prescribed nominal value and to
interrupt the testing if the level of displacement varies more than 5%. Tests are stopped as soon as the failure
of the Al wires are detected by means of an aluminium blade, which is fastened to the cable at the rst node
(zero vertical displacement point) from the xing by means of a hose clamp. Two laser sensors measures the
vertical displacements of each edge of this blade (see Fig. 2d) and when Al wires fail, the cable (and as con-
sequence, the blades) rotates due to a redistribution of the tangential component of the force among the
remaining strands. The blade rotation provokes displacements in opposite directions at each edge of the blade,
which are properly recorded by the sensors, allowing the warning about the rupture of the Al wires.

2.3. Failure analysis

A limited range of exploratory fatigue tests were carried out at the middle high cycle fatigue regime. Two
failed ACSR conductors, which were tested under dierent displacement amplitude conditions (conductor 1:
6  106 cycles and bending amplitude of 0.9 mm; conductor 5: 1  106 cycles and bending amplitude of
1.3 mm, see Table 1), were examined near the failure region (within the clamping region). Additionally, a
set of upper and lower as-cast Al clamps, carbon steel U-type bolt and nuts (see Fig. 3a and b) were also char-
acterised by optical and scanning electron microscope equipped with EDS microanalysis. The aim of this work

Table 1
Fretting fatigue testing parameters and results
Parameters Test number
1 2 3 4 5 6
YB (mm) 0.9 1.0 1.1 1.1 1.3 1.4
RA (MPa) 31.2 34.7 38.1 38.1 45.1 48.5
NF ( 106 cycles) Cigre 0.62 0.37 0.23 0.23 0.1 0.07
test 6.4 4.1 2.17 >1.0 1.1 0.6
NF Cigre`/NF test 10.3 11.1 9.5 >4.4 11.1 8.8

Fig. 3. (a) General view of the ACSR conductor and upper and lower cast Al clamps. (b) U-type carbon steel bolt and nut.
C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151 141

is to improve the set-up of the fretting fatigue rigs for overhead conductors in order to decrease the number of
free variables and improve the reproducibility of the tests.

3. Results

3.1. Preliminary SN (Wohler) results

A limited range of fatigue tests were carried out at the middle high cycle fatigue regime. The tests were con-
ducted using a typical pre-load of 20% of the RTS (22.4 kN), sag angle of 10 and the clamping pressure was
established by applying a 60 N m torque to the locking system. Table 1 reports the peak-to-peak vertical dis-
placement prescribed at 89 mm from the last point of contact between cable and clamp for the tests conducted.
They varied from 0.9 mm in the rst test to 1.4 mm in the last one (see Fig. 4). Using the PoenbergerSwart
formulae (see Eq. (1)), it is possible to compute, for each one of these tests, the corresponding nominal stress
amplitude experienced by an Al wire in the outer layer (stress values are reported in Table 1).
An exploratory SN curve (see Fig. 5) was accessed for this cable/clamp arrangement and compared to the
SN curve for the 1350-H19 Al wire and the Cigre safe border line [14], which is derived from SN curves
obtained by various laboratories and considering dierent conductor/clamp xings. Cigre SBL represents a
conservative lower limit of the permissible number of cycles at various stress levels that Al, Al alloy and
multilayer ACSR conductors mounted on various types of clamps can sustain without failure. The exploratory
SN curve for the Grosbeak conductor lies signicantly higher in terms of life than the Cigre SBL, but lower
than the SN curve of an Al wire. This essentially means that the Al wire alone presents much greater fatigue
strength than the cable and that the Cigre line is safe but can underestimate the cable durability by a factor of
11.

Fig. 4. Scheme of the suspension clamp/cable xing showing the vertical displacement measuring point.

Fig. 5. SN curve for a Grosbeak ACSR conductor, 1350-H19 Al wire and Cigre safe border line.
142 C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151

Fig. 6. General view of the conductor 1 (6.4  106 cycles, bending amplitude: 0.9 mm) after the fatigue testing. (a) Detail showing
supercial damage (wear) on the external layer of the ACSR conductor and presence of two broken wires (plane fracture). (b) Detail
showing elliptical fretting marks (strand/strand) on the internal layer of the ACSR conductor. EDS microanalysis on the fretting marks
indicated preponderant presence of Al2O3 (hardness of approximately 2000 HV).

3.2. Failure analysis results

Figs. 6 and 7 show the general aspect of the ACSR conductor cable after the fatigue testing, indicating that
the rupture of the strands occurred just at the end of the clamping region. The cable is composed of alternate
layering (right-hand lay followed by left-hand lay) and the contact points between wires of adjacent layers are,
therefore, ellipses, while between adjacent wires of the same layer it can be considered as rectangles. Investi-
gation of the external strands revealed the presence of broad rectangular marks caused by clamping and thin
lateral strand/strand marks. Internal aluminium strands revealed elliptical marks caused by the contact
between two wires of dierent layers. The visual inspection of the ruptured ACSR conductors located in
the clamping region showed: gross plastic deformation marks of the external layer of aluminium and presence
of Al2O3 and SiO2 debris; and elliptical strand/strand marks with the presence of Al2O3 debris at the end of the
clamping regions (conrmed by EDS microanalysis) in the internal layer. These results conrmed the occur-
rence of fretting wear on the ACSR conductor inside the clamping system.
The visual inspection of the ruptured aluminium strands identied three types of fracture topography (see
Figs. 811): V-type, 45-type and quasi-normal surface. Table 2 shows the distribution of each type of fracture
according to the positioning of the aluminium strand (external or internal). The 45 fracture surface was the
predominant type for both external and internal layers of aluminium strands for failure under high bending

Fig. 7. General view of the conductor 5 (1.1  106 cycles, bending amplitude: 1.3 mm) after the fatigue testing. (a) Detail showing intense
supercial damage (wear), with loss and fracture of tents, on the external layer of the ACSR conductor. (b) Detail showing elliptical
fretting marks (strand/strand) and 45 fracture of tents on the internal layer of the ACSR conductor. EDS microanalysis on the fretting
marks indicated preponderant presence of Al2O3 (hardness of approximately 2000 HV).
C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151 143

Fig. 8. Plane fracture of the external tent of the ACSR conductor 1 (6.4  106 cycles, bending amplitude: 0.9 mm) after the fatigue testing.
(a) Fractographic examination reveals two distinct regions: 40% of smooth plane (upper region) and 60% of brous (lower region). The
fatigue failure nucleated at the elliptical fretting mark. (b) Detail of the smooth plane fracture surface featuring faint striation marks.
SEM-SEI.

Fig. 9. Metallographic examination of the fractured tent of the ACSR conductor 1 (6.4  106 cycles, bending amplitude: 0.9 mm) after the
fatigue testing, longitudinal section. (a) Intense plastic deformation on the tent/tent tribo-surface, leading to sub-supercial cracking,
material detachment and formation of Al2O3 debris. (b) Detail of the fatigue crack propagation region. Fatigue crack was nucleated at the
fretting mark. SEM-BEI.

Fig. 10. V-type fracture of the internal tent of the ACSR conductor 5 (1.1  106 cycles, bending amplitude: 1.3 mm) after the fatigue
testing. (a) Fractographic examination reveals two distinct regions: 15% of plane (smooth) and 85% of brous. The fatigue failure
nucleated at the elliptical fretting mark (SEM-SEI). (b) Metallographic examination showing a 100 lm deep planar fatigue secondary
cracking. SEM-BEI.
144 C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151

amplitudes (1.3 mm), while the quasi-normal fracture surface was the predominant type under low bending
amplitudes (0.9 mm). The V-type fracture surface was observed for both external and internal layers of alu-
minium strands failed under high bending amplitudes (1.3 mm).
Microfractographic examination investigated in more detail the three types of fracture surface for the alu-
minium strands: planar fracture surface, V-type and 45 fracture surface. The experimental results of the pla-
nar fracture on the external aluminium strands of the conductor tested under lower bending amplitude of
0.9 mm (see Figs. 8 and 9) indicated that fatigue cracking (approximately 1 mm deep and nucleated preferen-
tially on the elliptical fretting marks), was followed by a shear overload rupture mechanism (mixed mode). The
results of the V-type fracture, which occurred preferentially on the external aluminium strands of the conduc-
tor tested under higher bending amplitude of 1.3 mm, also indicated (see Fig. 10) that fatigue cracking
(approximately 400 lm deep and nucleated preferentially on the elliptical fretting marks) was followed by
shear overload mechanism. The fracture of the remaining aluminium strands occurred by a shear overload
(45 fracture surface, see Fig. 11).
Metallographic investigation of the Al strands revealed an elongated cold-worked microstructure com-
posed of Al-a grains and FeAl3 inclusions, featuring a hardness value of approximately 45 HV. Intense super-
cial plastic deformation, leading to sub-supercial cracking, followed by material detachment, oxidation and
formation of Al2O3 debris is observed on the wear surface of the aluminium strands (see Figs. 911). The pres-
ence of a fatigue region in the planar and V-type fracture surfaces is conrmed by the planar crack propaga-
tion near the wire surface (see Figs. 9b and 10b).
Visual inspection of the internal surface of the upper and lower clamp revealed the presence of static marks
associated with fretting (see Figs. 12 and 13). Metallographic examination of the lower clamp (see Fig. 12)
revealed an as-cast Al13%Si eutectic microstructure, featuring rened interdendritic AlSi eutectic, typical
of modied AlSi alloys, and a hardness value of 65 HV. Metallographic examination of the upper clamp

Fig. 11. (a) 45-type fracture of the internal tent of the ACSR conductor 5 (1.1  106 cycles, bending amplitude: 1.3 mm) after the fatigue
testing. (b) Metallographic examination showing a 200 lm deep planar 45 secondary cracking nucleating on fretting marks. SEM-BEI.

Table 2
Summary of the macrofractographic observation of the ACSR conductors after the fretting fatigue testing
Conductor Testing condition Conductor layer No. of fractured Al wires Type of fracture
6
1 6.4  10 cycles; bending amplitude: 0.9 mm External 2 100% plane
Internal
5 1.1  106 cycles; bending amplitude: 1.3 mm External 5 60% 45-type
40% V-type
Internal 4 75% 45-type
25% V-type
C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151 145

Fig. 12. (a) Detail of the lower Al-cast clamp showing presence of static marks and preferential wear on the last point of contact with the
ACSR conductor. (b) Metallographic examination of as-cast Al13%Si alloy (EDS microanalysis), transversal section, last point of
contact, showing primary a-phase dendrites and rened interdendritic AlSi eutectic, typical of a modied AlSi cast alloy. SEM-BEI. (c)
Detail showing formation of a 10 lm thick layer of Al2O3 and SiO2 debris (EDS microanalysis). Wear of the lower clamp occurred by
deformation, preferential sub-supercial cracking and material detachment along the interdendritic regions, leading to the formation of
crushed Al2O3 and SiO2 (see (d)). SEM-BEI.

(see Fig. 13) revealed an as-cast Al17%Si hypereutectic microstructure, featuring coarse interdendritic AlSi
eutectic and primary Si particles, typical of unmodied AlSi alloys, and a hardness value of 62 HV. In both
cases, wear of material occurred by preferential deformation, sub-supercial cracking, material detachment
along the interdendritic regions, leading to the formation of crushed Al2O3 and SiO2 debris on the tribo-
interface.
Metallographic examination of the xation nut revealed a ferritic microstructure with hardness of
190 6 HV, featuring machined threads with intense plastic deformation and destruction of the supercial
deposit of Zn (see Fig. 14ad). Metallographic examination of the xation bolt revealed a pearliticferritic
microstructure with hardness of 240 10 HV and featuring rolled threads and supercial deposit of Zn
(60 lm) (see Fig. 15ad).

4. Discussion

Static and dynamic supercial degradation marks were observed on the external and internal aluminium
strands along the clamping region (see Figs. 6a and 7a). The static marks were produced by the plastic defor-
mation, which occurred during the assembly of the suspension clamp. A good example of static marks are the
at areas observed on the external side of the outer layer of the aluminium strands located inside the clamping
region. Between layers, the deformation marks are elliptical, while the lateral contact between wires of the
same layer produces very narrow mark strips of plasticity. Surface degradation of the internal aluminium
strands was much more intense in the zone adjacently ahead to the clamping area, indicated by the presence
146 C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151

Fig. 13. (a) Detail of the upper Al-cast clamp showing static marks and presence of preferential wear on the last point of contact with the
ACSR conductor. (b) Metallographic examination of as-cast Al17%Si alloy (EDS microanalysis), transversal section, last point of
contact with the ACSR conductor, showing primary a-phase dendrites and acicular Si precipitates and coarse interdendritic AlSi eutectic,
typical of unmodied AlSi cast alloy. SEM-BEI. (c) Detail showing wear of the upper clamp occurred by deformation, preferential sub-
supercial cracking and material detachment along the interdendritic regions, leading to the formation of crushed Al2O3 and SiO2 (EDS
microanalysis). SEM-BEI.

of more intense black elliptical marking. Dynamic marks are produced by fretting (see Figs. 6b and 7b). In the
case of transmission line conductors, the contacting surfaces are clamp/strand and strand/strand interfaces,
while the environment is the air and the oxidation product consists mainly of black aluminium oxide, whose
hardness can reach approximately 2000 HV [2]. The surface damage produced by fretting can take the form of
fretting wear or fretting fatigue. The term fretting fatigue characterises the combined action of fretting wear
with the mechanical induced vibration stresses, drastically reducing the fatigue limit of the component. Among
the variables, which inuence fretting endurance, are: slip amplitude; magnitude and distribution of contact
pressure; material combination and condition of mating surfaces; frictional forces and near surface stresses;
cyclic frequency (exural stiness of the cable changes with frequency); temperature and environment
[2,1517].
The experimental work found debris of SiO2 particles in the tribo-interface between clamp and external
wires, whose hardness can reach 1050 HV (see Figs. 12c, d and 13c). Finally, hard primary silicon particles
(1020 HV) are found in microstructure of the as-cast AlSi clamps, especially the upper clamp, which featured
an unmodied hypereutectic microstructure (see Figs. 12b and 13b). All these hard particles can act as abra-
sive material acting against the comparatively soft materials (wrought aluminium strands and as-cast AlSi
clamps), promoting further fretting. The supercial degradation of the aluminium strands and lower and
upper clamps occurred by particle detachment and delamination mechanisms, leading to the formation of
Al2O3 debris, in the case of internal strands, or a mixture of Al2O3 and SiO2 debris, in the case of external
strands in contact with the clamps. These debris are the result of high cyclic tangential load associated to
the oxidation of the crushed metallic detached particles [1821]. Previous works on lubricated ACSR
conductors [5,20,22,23] showed that lubrication prevents airmetal contact, decreasing the oxidation of
detached particles and, as consequence, the formation of abrasive debris, reducing the coecient of friction
C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151 147

Fig. 14. Fixation nut. (a)(c) Detail of the machined threads showing intense plastic deformation and destruction of the layer of Zn. (d)
Ferritic microstructure, hardness of 190 6 HV.

between metalmetal and the tangential forces on the strands. Comparative fretting fatigue tests conrmed
that the number of cycles to the rst fracture of Al strands could be ve times longer for the lubricated ACSR
conductors. In the same sense, the use of an elastomeric cushion between the clamps and the ACSR conductor
avoids metal/metal contact on the clamp/conductor tribo-interface and also improves the fretting life of
electrical conductors [5,20].
Earlier investigations on electrical conductor fretting fatigue [5,17,21,24,25] identied three types of fretting
regimes occurring under cyclic bending: partial slip, mixed (stick-and-slip) and gross slip regime. Partial slip
regime associated with very small relative displacements is observed inside the clamping region and corre-
sponds to high radial load on the conductor and high normal load at the contact points, causing slight contact
wear, which may initiate fatigue cracking after a large number of cycles (10 million cycles). As the level of
relative surface motion increases the mixed (stick-and-slip) regime becomes more critical with respect to
supercial degradation and fretting endurance, as the supercial degradation acts as a stress raiser, promoting
the nucleation of cracks. Mixed fretting regime is therefore the most critical with respect to fatigue crack
initiation, being located in the last point of contact zone between clamp and conductor. Gross slip regime
corresponds to lower radial load and higher relative slip at contact points, being usually observed outside
the clamping zone. At this stage the amount of wear generated by the large relative displacement between
the contacting surfaces is substantially higher than in the partial slip regime. This essentially means that, under
gross slip, a initiated crack may be vanished away by wear before it is able to propagate, thus fretting wear
seems to be a more important mechanism at this regime than fretting fatigue [5,17,24,25].
Fractographic examination identied three types of fracture surface for the Al strands: planar fracture
surface (see Fig. 8a and b), V-type (see Fig. 10a and b) and 45 fracture surface (see Fig. 11a and b). The latter
was the predominant type for both external and internal layers of aluminium strands for failure under high
bending amplitudes (1.3 mm), while the former was the predominant type for under low bending amplitudes.
148 C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151

Fig. 15. U-type xation bolt. (a)(c) Detail of the rolled threads showing layer of Zn. (d) Pearliticferritic microstructure, hardness of
240 10 HV.

These three widespread fracture patterns had been previously observed by Zhou et al. [20,2426] during the
investigation on the fretting fatigue of electrical conductor. The rst topographic pattern they observed was
the planar fracture surface, observed on the outer layer under low bending amplitudes, being associated with
predominant crack propagation by stress fatigue. The other two modes, 45 and mixed mode, were mainly
observed for the inner layer strands under high bending amplitudes. Mixed mode fracture showed crack prop-
agation by stress fatigue and nal fracture by shear, while 45 fracture mode was associated with crack prop-
agation by pure shear. In all three cases, crack nucleation occurred preferentially at the fretting marks.
The results of the planar fracture on the external aluminium strands of the conductor tested under lower
bending amplitude conrmed that fatigue cracking was followed by a shear overload rupture mechanism
(mixed mode). The investigation of the V-type fracture, which occurred preferentially in some external Al
strands of the conductor tested under higher bending amplitude, also indicated the action of the same fracture
mechanisms (see Fig. 10b and b), but with a much smaller proportion of fatigue fracture (400 lm against
1 mm fatigue crack deep in the previous condition), due to action of higher stresses on the Al strands
(45 MPa versus 31 MPa, see Table 1). The remaining Al wires of the conductor tested under higher bending
C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151 149

amplitude fractured by shear overload (see Fig. 11a and b). Fatigue cracking (nucleated on fretting marks)
followed by shear overload fracture was the rupture mechanism of the rst Al wires for both testing conditions
(bending amplitudes of 0.9 mm and 1.3 mm), indicating that the rupture of both conductors took place under
mixed (stick-and-slip) regime.
The microstructure of the lower clamp (as-cast Al13%Si alloy) presented rened (modied) eutectic Si
particles distributed homogeneously throughout the matrix (see Fig. 12b). By contrast, the microstructure
of the upper clamp (as-cast Al17%Si alloy) presented primary hard Si precipitates along with a coarse
(unmodied) eutectic microstructure (see Fig. 13b). The investigation of upper and lower clamps revealed
the presence of wear, with the formation of abrasive (SiO2 and Al2O3) debris on the tribo-interface with
the clamps due to preferential sub-supercial cracking of the matrix/precipitate interface along the eutectic
regions of the as-cast microstructure, followed by material detachment, crushing and oxidation (see Figs.
12c, d and 13c). Previous investigations on the wear behaviour of eutectic AlSi cast alloys [2730] showed
that Mg, Zr, Ce and Zn addition improved signicantly their wear resistance, through the renement (mod-
ication) of the eutectic microstructure and primary Si precipitates. In this sense, the use of heat-treatment
can improve the wear resistance of some classes of as-cast AlSiX alloys, due to the formation of ne pre-
cipitates homogeneously distributed throughout the matrix (underaged microstructures presented lower wear
rate). These results reveal that the formation of abrasive debris can be easily minimised by the selection of
more suitable classes of materials.
The ideal bolt/nut combination aims to obtain a more uniform distribution of load along the threaded cyl-
inder by providing material with high tensile strength for the bolt and material with good plasticity for the nut
[31]. The type of fretting regime strongly depends on the displacement amplitude and clamping contact pres-
sure. In general, for a given bending displacement amplitude, the transition from the safe stick fretting regime
to the failure-prone mixed and gross slip fretting regimes takes place with the decrease of the clamping contact
pressure [5,17,21,25]. With proper selection of bolt and nut materials, proper design of bolt and nut bearing
surfaces and the use of locking devices, the assumption is that the initial clamping force will be sustained dur-
ing the fretting fatigue testing.
The investigated clamping xation is made of carbon steel nuts (fabricated in ferritic carbon steel, featuring
machined threads with 190 HV) fastened against a U-type carbon steel bolt (fabricated in ferriticpearlitic car-
bon steel, featuring rolled threads with 240 HV), see Figs. 14 and 15. The results showed an intense degrada-
tion of the carbon steel nuts, with intense plastic deformation and loss of material, including the loss of the Zn
coating. In this sense, the employment of rolled threads in the nuts would increase locally the yield strength,
avoiding drastic plastic deformation and optimising the orientation of the microstructure in relation to the
main stresses. These actions might prevent the loss in the clamping pressure during the fretting testing.
Finally, it is very important to control the specication of these components (clamps, bolt and nuts) prior
the start of large scale fretting fatigue testing of the overhead conductors in Brazil in order to increase the
reproducibility of the fatigue life assessment.

5. Conclusions

 A fretting fatigue rig for overhead conductors was successfully designed and a limited range of fatigue tests
was carried out at the middle high cycle fatigue regime in order to access an exploratory SN curve for a
Grosbeak conductor mounted on a mono-articulated cast Al clamping system;
 The Cigre safe border line proved to be up to eleven times more conservative than the preliminary tests with
a Grosbeak ACSR conductor;
 Fatigue cracking (nucleated on fretting marks) followed by shear overload fracture was the rupture mech-
anism of the rst Al wires for both testing conditions (bending amplitudes of 0.9 mm and 1.3 mm), indicat-
ing that the rupture of both conductors took place under mixed (stick-and-slip) regime;
 The unmodied microstructure of the upper clamp, cast in Al17%Si alloy, presented coarse primary and
eutectic Si particles distributed heterogeneously throughout the matrix (62HV). The modied microstruc-
ture of the lower clamp, cast in Al13%Si alloy, presented rened eutectic Si particles distributed homoge-
neously throughout the matrix (65 HV). The formation of abrasive debris on both clamps can be minimised
by the selection of more suitable classes of materials;
150 C.R.F. Azevedo et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 16 (2009) 136151

 The results showed an intense degradation of the carbon steel nut threads (fabricated in ferritic carbon
steel, featuring machined threads with hardness of 190 HV), with intense plastic deformation and loss of
material, including the Zn coating. Proper selection of bolt and nut materials and nishing processing might
prevent the loss in the clamping pressure during the fretting testing;
 It is very important to control the specication of the clamping system components prior the start of large
scale fretting fatigue testing of the overhead conductors in order to increase the reproducibility of the fati-
gue life assessment.

Acknowledgement

The authors wish to thank Mr. C.R. dos Santos, technician of the Departamento de Engenharia Metalurg-
ica e de Materiais da Escola Politecnica da Universidade de Sao Paulo for his valuable support during the
microscopic characterisation. This project was supported by Centrais Eletricas do Norte do Brasil S.A. Elet-
ronorte, by Companhia Energetica de Goias CELG, by Transmissao Paulista CTEEP and by CNPq under
contract 551632/2005-4, and by a PIBIC scholarship granted by CNPq/UnB. These supports are gratefully
acknowledged.

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