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Acta Metall. Sin.(Engl. Lett.)Vol.24 No.2 pp101-108 April 2011

Fatigue behaviors of Z2CND18.12N stainless steel

under thermal-mechanical cycling
Liubing WANG 1) , Dunji YU 1)
, Fei XUE 2)
, Weiwei YU 2)
, Jian CHEN 3)

and Xu CHEN 1)∗

1) School of Chemical Engineering and Technology, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China
2) Suzhou Nuclear Power Institute, Suzhou 240051, China
3) Key Laboratory of Efficient & Clean Energy Utilization, College of Hunan Province, Changsha
University of Science and Technology, Changsha 410114, China
Manuscript received 1 December 2010; in revised form 4 February 2011

Tests under mechanical strain control were performed to investigate the TMF behav-
ior of Z2CND18.12N within the temperature range between 150–550 ◦ C. Different
strain amplitudes and phase-angles were applied. Total strain controlled low cycle
fatigue test was also performed at the peak temperature of TMF cycling. The results
show that the cyclic stress response of the material displayed an initial hardening
regime followed by a saturation period and then cyclic softening till failure. The
TMF cycling leads to the development of significant amounts of mean stress. Some
life prediction models were employed to predict the TMF life of Z2CND18.12N, and
the results indicate that the energy-based models provide good prediction on the
thermal-mechanical fatigue behaviors of this material. An optical microscopic obser-
vation shows that the surface crack initiations and crack propagations are typically
transgranular mode.
KEY WORDS Thermomechanical fatigue; Z2CND18.12N; Life prediction;
Microstructural behavior

1 Introduction

Nowadays, many industrial components are used in high temperature conditions, such
as loop pipeline in PWR nuclear power plant. The heating and cooling cycles during
startup and shutdown operations always cause temperature gradients, resulting in thermal
stress because of thermal expansion, and thermal stress is often combined with mechanical
stress. The resulting thermal-mechanical fatigue (TMF) is often a life-limiting factor[1] ,
and TMF is often treated as low cycle fatigue.
Z2CND18.12N is a new type of austenitic stainless steels which can acquire the stable
austenite by using nitrogen elements as a substitute for nickel element. The stainless steel is
widely used in high temperature components because of its good mechanical property, de-
cay resistance and thermal stability. But austenitic stainless steels are sensitive to thermal

Corresponding author. Professor, PhD; Tel: +86 22 27408399.

E-mail address: xchen@tju.edu.cn (Xu CHEN)

· 102 ·

fatigue because of a low thermal conductivity combined with a high coefficient of thermal
expansion. Many works have been reported in the literature on the TMF behavior of differ-
ent types of steels[1−8] . Nagesha et al.[1] evaluated TMF behavior of austenitic steel 316L,
two extreme and basic experimental TMF cycle types were used to assess life under TMF
conditions on hollow specimens. One type was in-phase (IP) TMF (peak tensile strain
and peak temperature coinciding) and out-of-phase (OP) TMF (peak tensile strain and
the minimum temperature coinciding). And total strain controlled low cycle fatigue (LCF)
tests were also performed at the peak temperatures of TMF cycling on similar specimens
for comparison. They also performed tests in vacuum in order to assess environmental in-
fluence on life. Results revealed that fatigue life was dependent on temperature range and
strain-temperature phase-angle. When temperature was above 600 ◦ C, creep was found to
contribute to life reduction in IP tests. Isothermal cycling at the peak temperature of TMF
yielded lower lives compared to both IP and OP cycling. Tests under vacuum resulted in
a six-fold increase in life under OP cycling, underlining a strong environmental influence
on life. They attempt to predict TMF life using LCF tests data and Ostergren0 s frequency
modified damage function approach was successfully employed. The investigation showed
that the practice of high temperature component design for low cycle fatigue based on the
expected peak operative temperature is generally conservative for the present material. Shi
et al.[2] evaluated the effect of temperature range in TMF fatigue tests. The greater the
temperature range, the more evident is the intervention of this factor both in the cyclic
stress-strain behavior and in the lifetime. At the beginning, the material undergoes a
hardening period. It is remarked that an increase in stress range from the first cycle to the
fully hardened condition in the out-of-phase case is considerably higher than that in the
in-phase case. Asymmetric stress-strain loops are obtained due to the effect of the thermal
cycling. It results in a compressive mean stress in the in-phase tests and a tensile mean
stress in the out-of-phase tests. Hong et al.[3] evaluated DSA (dynamic strain aging) and
its effect on the high-temperature low-cycle fatigue resistance in type 316L stainless steel
and found the regime of DSA. DSA reduced the fatigue resistance by ways of multiple crack
initiations, which comes from the DSA-induced inhomogeneity of deformation, and rapid
crack propagation due to the DSA-induce hardening. Klaus et al.[4] performed three types
tests on AISI 316L and compared the results of isothermal fatigue (IF), strain-controlled
thermal-mechanical fatigue and complex thermal-mechanical fatigue (CTMF) tests. The
CTMF tests were performed with a two-specimen testing system which allows the interac-
tion between a “hot” and a “cold” location of a component. They revealed that the cyclic
deformation behavior under CTMF conditions is not only determined by the hardening
or softening of the material investigated, but even to a larger extent by the interaction of
the specimens within the CTMF system. But the microstructural changes under CTMF
conditions can be correlated with the respective observations made under IF and TMF
Fatigue, environmental (oxidation), and creep damage are the major aspects of damage
mechanisms under TMF conditions, these mechanisms may act independently or in combi-
nation depending on the type of materials and operating conditions, such as the maximum
and minimum temperatures, the temperature range, the mechanical strain range and strain
rate, the phase of temperature and strain, the dwell time, or environmental factors. Due
to these complexities, a well-accepted framework for the prediction of TMF life is yet to
· 103 ·

evolve and various approaches have been attempted. In this study, several existed models
were employed to predict the experimental life.

2 Experimental

The material used in this study was Z2CND18.12N austenitic stainless steel in the
form of round solid bar with a diameter of 18 mm. Its chemical composition in wt pct was
as follows: C:0.025; Si:0.430; Mn:1.211; P:0.021; S:0.003; Ni:12.073; Cr:17.517; Mo:2.388;
B:0.001; Cu:0.075; Co:0.035; N:0.070. The
solid bar was machined to the specimen used
in the TMF experiments with the geometry
shown in Fig.1.
The machine used for the present inves-
tigation was MTS 810 (Fig.2). The grips
were water-cooled which served the addi-
tional purpose of specimen cooling. Thermo-
couple welded in the top of the gauge length
was served as the controlling thermocouple,
so as to keep the temperature gradients to a
Fig.1 Geometry of the test specimen (in
minimum. The spot welding process was op-
timized in order to avoid damage initiation at
the thermocouple locations. The induction
coil was adapted to the specimen geometry.
Strain was measured via an air-cooled, side-
contacting extensometer that had a gauge
length of 25 mm.
In-phase (0◦ -phase) and out-of-phase
(180◦ -phase) thermal-mechanical tests were
carried out in the temperature range of 150–
550 ◦ C with the mechanical strain ampli-
tudes of 0.6%, 0.7%, and 1%, respectively.
A 90◦ -phase thermal-mechanical test in the
range of 150–550 ◦ C and a low-cycle-fatigue
Fig.2 Test equipment of TMF tests.
test at 550 ◦ C were also conducted under the
mechanical strain amplitude of 0.6%. In all
tests, the heating rate and cooling rate were 0.8
OP 90

both 3.33 K/s, resulting in the cycle period 0.6

of 120 s. The loading paths of TMF tests un- 0.2
Strain / %

der the mechanical strain amplitude of 0.7% 0.0

were shown in Fig.3. -0.2

The specimen was initially allowed to ex- -0.4

pand under zero loading during initial heat- -0.6

ing from the ambient to peak temperature, -0.8

100 200 300 400 500 600

allowing for free thermal expansion and con- Temperature /

traction under displacement control. Subse-

Fig.3 Loading paths of TMF tests.
quently, four thermal cycles were performed
· 104 ·
between the minimum and maximum tem-
perature, and then thermal strain was plot- 550

ted and approximated by a polynomial of 549

2nd order. The mechanical strain was cal-


culated using the function εm =εt − εth and

Temperature /
controlled on a real-time basis. A 20% drop
in tensile stress from the saturated value was 546

used as the failure criterion. 545

A finite element analysis was employed
to calculate the temperature distribution un- 0 1 2 3 4 5

der the thermal cycling, and the result was

Radial location / mm

shown in Fig.4. The temperature gradient Fig.4 Temperature distribution in the radial
between the surface and center was about direction of the specimen.
5.5 ◦ C at the peak temperature 550 ◦ C,
which was lower than 550×1.5% as districted by ISO standard.

3 Results and Discussion

3.1 Cyclic stress response analysis

The cyclic stress response under both TMF and LCF conditions displayed an initial
hardening regime about 50–80 cycles before a short saturation period, followed by a long
period of slow cyclic softening till failure (Figs.5 and 6). The hardening or softening
feature could be explained by the isotropic hardening/softening rule and strain memory
effect. According to the isotropic rule, the hardening/softening rate depends on the rate of
plastic strain accumulation. Larger strain amplitude leads to a higher rate of plastic strain
accumulation. Thus, the TMF test with the amplitude of 1% took fewer cycles to hardening
saturation than tests with the amplitude of 0.6% and 0.7% under IP or OP conditions.
This is similar to the following softening period. Considering the strain memory effect, the
hardening degree is related to the plastic strain amplitude. Larger plastic strain amplitude
results in higher hardening degree. Therefore, the peak stress of 1% amplitude TMF test
was higher than 0.6% and 0.7% TMF tests under both IP and OP conditions.
As can be seen from Fig.6, the TMF cycling with different phase angles all yielded
500 500

400 400

300 300

200 200
Stress / MPa
Stress / MPa

100 0.7%-IP 100 0.6%-IP

1.0%-IP 0.6%-90
0 0
0.6%-OP 0.6%-OP
-100 0.7%-OP -100 0.6%-Isothermal

-200 1.0%-OP

-300 -300

-400 -400

-500 -500
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600

Number of cycles Number of cycles

Fig.5 Cyclic stress response under different Fig.6 Cyclic stress response of TMF tests in
mechanical strain amplitudes in both different phase angles cases and LCF
IP and OP cases. test at 550 ◦ C (∆ε/2=0.6%).
· 105 ·

higher stress responses in comparison with LCF cycling at the peak temperature of em-
ployed in TMF tests. This behavior could be attributed to the higher flow stress of the
material in the low temperature regimes of the TMF cycle. Fig.6 also shows a gradient of
peak/valley stress level from 0◦ -phase to 180◦ -phase cases, which is consistent with that of
the temperature at the corresponding peak/valley strain. Taking peak stress for instance,
the IP, 90◦ -phase and OP cycling achieved tensile peak strain of 0.6% at 550 ◦ C, 350 ◦ C,
and 150 ◦ C, respectively, thus yielding the lowest, middle and highest stress response level,
Fig.7 shows the evolution of mean stress
with TMF and LCF cycling, the existence of 40

mean stress indicated that the stress-strain

response was asymmetric. In the first 20 cy- 20

Mean stress / MPa

cles of LCF cycling, mean stress was com- 0

pressive slightly decreased due to cyclic hard- -20

ening. After cyclic saturation, mean stress

stabilized to zero. Since the temperature 0.6%-IP


loading was symmetry for the case of 90◦ - -60 0.6%-OP


phase TMF cycling, the evolution of mean -80

10 100 1000
stress was similar to the LCF cycling. As for Number of cycles

the case of IP and OP TMF cycling, mean

stress kept compressive and tensile due to the Fig.7 Mean stress of TMF tests in differ-
positive and negative temperature difference ent phase angle cases and LCF test at
550◦ C (∆ε/2=0.6%).
between peak and valley strain, respectively.

3.2 Fatigue life analysis

From Fig.5 and Table 1 we can see that in both IP and OP cases, 1.0% strain amplitude
TMF tests yielded the shortest lifetime, and 0.7% strain amplitude TMF tests resulted in
slightly shorter lifetime than those with the strain amplitude of 0.6%. It can be concluded
that larger strain amplitude led to shorter lifetime.
For smaller strain amplitudes (0.6% and 0.7%), Fig.5 and Table 1 shows that IP tests
resulted in shorter lifetime than OP tests. When it comes to the lager strain amplitude of
1.0%, loading paths displayed no obvious effect on the lifetime.
In the cases of 0.6% strain amplitude TMF and LCF cycling, LCF test at 550 ◦ C yielded
the shortest lifetime, as can be seen from Fig.6 and Table 1. For the TMF tests, OP case

Table 1 Main results of TMF tests

σmean /MPa ∆εp /2 ∆σ/2/MPa
∆T (◦ C) ∆εmech /2 IP/OP Lifetime Nf
(Half life) (Half life) (Half life)
IP −32.0892 0.004114 370.422 1151
0.006 OP 28.5533 0.004149 368.151 1501
90◦ −3.1833 0.004093 375.936 1073
150–550 IP −30.8174 0.005298 352.141 966
OP 26.2616 0.00521 364.395 1451
IP −31.1356 0.008089 389.687 522
OP 32.4346 0.008062 393.059 502
550 0.006 / −1.6501 0.004543 279.246 499
· 106 ·

resulted in the longest lifetime, and 90◦ -phase TMF case yielded a slightly longer lifetime
than IP case.

4 Life Prediction Under TMF Cycling

In order to design components operating under TMF cycling conditions, reasonably

accurate estimation of the fatigue life has to be made. In this section, some life prediction
models were employed to estimate the life under TMF cycling.
Tomkins[9] proposed a function that includes stress range and plastic strain range to
predict cycle life. There is only one parameter in the function. The basic assumption of
the method is that there is no creep occur and oxidation,

∆σ 2 ∆εp Nf = C (1)

C is the material parameter, ∆εp and ∆σ are the half-life values of stress range and plastic
strain range respectively.
Ostergren[10] proposed a damage function that includes stress as well as strain range
to describe failure. The basic assumption of the method is that the net tensile hysteresis
energy is a measure of damage. The cyclic life could be related to the plastic strain energy
by a power law relationship,
Nf = a × (σmax × ∆εp )b (2)
where a and b are material parameters. σmax and ∆εp are the half-life values of the peak
tensile stress and plastic strain amplitude respectively.
Plastic strain energy density, which is defined as the inner area of the cyclic stress-
plastic strain hysteresis loop, is nearly invariant through the whole cycles. And it0 s widely
used in fatigue life prediction,
Nf = a · (∆Wp )b (3)
where a and b are material parameters. ∆Wp is the plastic strain energy.
But the effect of the mean stress or strain isn0 t accounted in plastic strain energy model.
So, Ellyin[11] proposed the total strain energy model to cover that problem,

Nf = a(∆Wt )b = a(∆Wp + ∆We )b (4)

where a and b are material parameters. ∆Wt is the total strain energy, ∆Wp and ∆We are
the plastic and elastic strain energy, respectively. Usually, the hysteresis loop at half-life
is taken to be a representative one and is used to calculate the strain energy.
These life prediction models were utilized for predicting. A satisfactory prediction,
within a scatter band factor of two could be obtained as shown in Fig.8.
All the four of the models were successfully employed for predicting the TMF life,
utilizing the hysteresis loop of the half lifetime.

5 Microstructural Observation

Both optical and scanning electron microscopes were used to examine failed specimens.
An optical microscope observation of the samples shows that long surface crack is the cause
of failure of the specimens. Some short secondary cracks are observed on the surface of the
specimens. All cracks are perpendicular to the direction of tensile stress. A longitudinal
· 107 ·
cross section of the failed specimen was ex-
amined, and the results revealed that surface 104
Total strain energy

crack initiations and crack propagations are Plastic strain energy

typically transgranular mode. As shown in Ostergren


Fig.9a. This phenomenon indicates that fail-

Predicted life
ure is dominated by fatigue damaging mech- 103

anism and the influence of creep is not evi-

The fracture surfaces of specimens were
observed with the scanning electron micro- 102 2
10 103 104
scope. Fatigue striations were clearly and Experimental life

easy to find on the fracture surface. The Fig.8 Comparison of the experimental and
crack initiation, propagation and brittle frac- calculated TMF lives.
ture stages can be observed. Fig.9b and 9c

Fig.9 (a) Crack initiation and propagation mode; (b) and (c) microphotograph of the fracture

showed the fracture feature obtained at the temperature range of 150–550 ◦ C for a me-
chanical strain range of 1%. Two different zones were observed in Fig.9b. At the bottom
of the photograph was a smooth zone which characterizes the initiation and propagation
of cracks, radial lines were observed. These lines might be due to multiple initiation and
propagation of cracks. The rest of the photograph was characteristic of the final rupture
of the sample (ductile rupture). Fig.9c showed an increasing in size of the crack initiation
zone. The cracks took a direction towards the center of the specimen, as the arrow in
Fig.9c. There were secondary initiation zones in the marked area in Fig.9c.

6 Conclusions

(1) In tests under temperature range of 150–550 ◦ C, there was an initial hardening
regime for about 50–80 cycles. And the hardening regime was related to the strain ampli-
tude, the smaller the strain amplitude was, the longer the hardening regime would be.
(2) Under the same thermal cycling condition, larger strain amplitude led to shorter
lifetime. Under the same strain amplitude, IP thermal cycling yielded shorter life time
than OP cases. 90◦ -phase test even resulted slightly shorter life time than IP test. Besides
lifetime of LCF test was shorter than other tests, indicated that high temperature caused
more damage.
(3) All of the four life prediction models were successfully employed for predicting the
TMF life, utilizing the hysteresis loop of the half lifetime.
· 108 ·

(4) The surface crack initiations and crack propagations were typically transgranular
mode. Fatigue striations were clearly and easy to be found on the fracture surface. The
crack initiation, propagation and brittle fracture stages could be observed

Acknowledgements—This work was supported by the National High Technical Research and Development
Program of China (No.2009AA04Z403), and PhD Programs Foundation of Ministry of
Education of China (No.20090032110016). Partial support (No.2010NGQ003) from
Key Laboratory of Efficient & Clean Energy Utilization, College of Hunan Province,
is acknowledged.

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