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Engineering Failure Analysis 13 (2006) 452463 www.elsevier.


Failure due to structural degradation in turbine blades

N. Ejaz *, A. Tauqir
Dr. A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories, P.O. Box 502, Rawalpindi, Pakistan Received 12 July 2004; accepted 14 December 2004 Available online 17 May 2005

Abstract During test run, tips of two high pressure turbine blades of an engine were found chipped o. The material of the blades is Udimet 500 and blades are used without any additional coating. The cause of failure is found to be intergranular crack(s) which started during exposure to high temperature. The phenomenon occurred at the pressure as well as the suction sides and the regions close to the tip experienced high distress. Cracks initiated from the oxidized/corroded grain boundaries and propagated to the critical length to result in catastrophic fracture. An indication of the blades running hot is the microstructural degradation. The mechanism of failure was hot corrosion followed by high cycle fatigue. 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: U 500; Intergranular corrosion; Hot corrosion; Turbine blade; Microstructural degradation

1. Background During the test run of an aircraft engine, tips of two high pressure (HP) turbine blades fractured. The operating hours of the blades were more than 2000. To simplify the discussion in the paper the two blades are designated as HPFA and HPFB. 2. Testing procedure and results 2.1. Surface examination Visual and low magnication microscopy reveals the following:  Brown color deposits were observed near the root and tip regions, see Fig. 1. The remaining section of the airfoil was dark gray in color.

Corresponding author. E-mail address: (N. Ejaz).

1350-6307/$ - see front matter 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.engfailanal.2004.12.041

N. Ejaz, A. Tauqir / Engineering Failure Analysis 13 (2006) 452463


 Rear side of both the blades had greenish deposits throughout the airfoil. Near the root region there was dark soot-like deposit on both the blades.  Two dents were found at the tip of HPFA.

2.2. Chemical analysis/identication Chemical analysis was carried out using the ICP, SEM EDS and Carbon Sulfur Analyzer. The composition matches with Udimet 500 [1]; see Table 1. 2.3. Metallography The airfoil of each blade was sectioned from three regions (shown schematically in Fig. 2) and prepared for metallography. The observations are summarized in the sub-sections below: Quantitative measurements of the depth of attack at the grain boundaries, corrosion and cracks were obtained using optical microscope equipped with Image Analyzer. The results are given in Table 2. 2.3.1. HPFA A through crack was observed located at 4 mm from the trailing edge (TE) in the cross-section of T region as shown in Fig. 3. This crack was intergranular and initiated from the suction side of the blade. A large number of cracks were found on the pressure and suction sides of region M as shown in Fig. 4. Oxidation and ne cracks were observed on other locations of T and M regions as shown in Fig. 5. The depth of cracks/oxidation as observed in the three regions (marked in Fig. 2) is given in Table 2. Oxidation/corrosion was relatively less severe in region B.

Fig. 1. Failed blades: (a) pressure and (b) suction side view.

454 Table 1 Chemical composition Element

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Sample HPFA HPFB 0.08 0.01 18 0.5 18 0.6 3.9 0.2 2.8 0.1 3.2 0.2 0.01 0.04 Bal.

Udimet 500

C Cr Co Mo Ti Al B Zr Ni

0.07 0.01 18 0.5 18 0.3 3.9 0.1 2.8 0.2 3.0 0.2 0.01 0.04 Bal.

0.08 18.0 18.5 4 2.9 2.9 0.006 0.05 Bal.

Fig. 2. Schematic of the blade sampling region.

Table 2 Depth of intergranular cracks Blade Depth of cracks/oxidation (lm) Tip HPFA HPFB 2767 43145 Middle 204475 84125 Bottom 49 59 A through crack 4 mm from the TE Eight cracks on pressure and suction sides of middle region A through crack 6 mm from the TE Five large cracks in the tip and middle region Observations

2.3.2. HPFB One through crack, up to 6 mm from the TE (Fig. 6(a)), and number of ne cracks were observed in region T of the airfoil, see Figs. 6(a) and (b). In general intergranular oxidation was present in the section taken from region T (Fig. 2). Just as in HPFA turbine blade, the M region had a high density of cracks/ oxidation features and grains had fallen out as shown in Figs. 6(c) and (d). The depth of these features is given in Table 2.

N. Ejaz, A. Tauqir / Engineering Failure Analysis 13 (2006) 452463


Fig. 3. A through crack in the tip section of HPFA.

Fig. 4. Intergranular cracks in the middle section of HPFA: (a) suction side; (b) pressure side.

Fig. 5. Generalized oxidation and ne cracks in the middle section of HPFA.

2.4. Hardness measurements Measurements were taken on all three sections of both the blades using a Vickers Hardness Testing Machine at 20 kg; the results are given in Table 3.


N. Ejaz, A. Tauqir / Engineering Failure Analysis 13 (2006) 452463

Fig. 6. HPFB: (a) through crack in tip region; (b) corrosion/oxidation in cross-section M; (c and d) severe grain boundary corrosion and fallen out grains.

2.5. Scanning electron microscopy In order to study the failure mechanism, fracture surfaces and airfoil surfaces were observed near the fracture region of both blades in a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). Metallographic samples were also studied in the SEM, both in the polished and etched1 conditions. 2.6. Surface examination Both the blades had identical distress features. Near the fracture surfaces of both blades deep cracks were observed as shown in Fig. 7(a). The remaining airfoil surfaces of both the blades had thick deposits on pressure and rear side. Grain boundaries were exposed due to intergranular oxidation in the middle and tip regions of the airfoil as shown in Fig. 7(b). 2.7. Fractography Fracture surfaces of both blades exhibit identical features. On both sides of the blades, an overheated band was observed, marked with orange color line in Fig. 8. Depth of band was greater on the rear side.

1 Immersion etched for 3 min in Glyceregia for carbides study electrolytic ally etched in the 5% H2CrO4 for gamma prime observation.

N. Ejaz, A. Tauqir / Engineering Failure Analysis 13 (2006) 452463 Table 3 Hardnesses Blade Hardness (HV) T HPFA HPFB 320 3 330 4 M 317 2 330 3 B


353 2 355 3

Fig. 7. Surface of failed blades: (a) crack in the vicinity of fracture surface in HPFA; (b) grain boundaries etched out due to intergranular corrosion in the middle section of HPFB.

Fig. 8. Fracture surface of the HPFA turbine blade shows an overheated band resulting in alloy depletion region (b) same region at higher magnication.

The fracture was intergranular having transgranular regions in some locations of the fracture surface. Triple point cracks were also observed within the intergranular fracture; see Figs. 9(a) and (b); similar features were observed in fracture surface of HPFB turbine.


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Fig. 9. (a) Intergranular fracture surface having triple point cracks (arrows) of HPFA. (b) Transgranular fracture regions (K & T) on the fracture surface of HPFA.

2.8. Microstructural degradation Microstructural features of the three regions marked in Fig. 2, were observed in the polished and etched conditions with the help of the electron microscope. Fig. 9 shows the electron micrographs of polished sample from M region of the HPFB turbine blade. General and intergranular corrosion/oxidation phenomenon is more obvious when observed in the electron microscope (see Fig. 10).

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Fig. 10. Polished cross-section M of HPFB showing overheating/corrosion.

Fig. 11 shows the electron micrograph of etched section from the tip region of HPFA. Gamma prime (c 0 ) was revealed as ne dot-like features. In region K no gamma prime was observed. Analysis of the regions K, T and P was conducted by EDS and variations in composition can be seen in Table 4. The percentage of Al and Ti was found higher in the regions of cracked surfaces (P) as compared to the regions away from the cracked surface (K). The corroded/oxidized layer was also revealed in the three regions (see Fig. 2) of the airfoil.

Fig. 11. Corroded, depleted zone (K) from tip region of HPFA. Gamma prime (c 0 ) in gamma (c) matrix.

Table 4 The analysis values are semi-quantitative, as the analysis was not conducted under the optimum conditions Region Element (wt%) Al K (Fig. 15) T (Fig. 15) P (Fig. 15) D (Fig. 13) E (Fig. 13) 1.36 3.00 13 0.3 3 Ti 0.88 3.00 5 Bal. 5 Cr 11.5 19 4 4 Bal. Co 18 18 11 1 2 Mo 3.8 4 3.5 26 24 Si 0.5 0.5 0.3 Ni Bal. Bal. Bal. 6 36 O 16

These may be used for the qualitative assessment only.


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Microstructural degradation was observed in regions M and T of the failed blades; the observations are:  Voids on the grain boundaries were observed; their size was greater near the surface; see Fig. 12.  Plate like phases were observed near grain boundaries and in some locations grain boundaries were found opened.  MC type primary carbides (D) were degraded and secondary reaction products (E) were present in the vicinity of the carbides (Figs. 13(a) and (b)). Results of EDS analyzes from D and E are given in Table 4.  In many locations M23C6 type secondary carbides were found agglomerated on grain and twin boundaries (Figs. 14(a) and (b)).  Gamma prime coarsened in the middle and tip regions as compared to the bottom section of the airfoil, see Figs. 15(a) and (b). Contrary to the above observations, in region B the level of degradation was much less and was limited only to voids on grain boundaries and twins and slip bands near surface (Figs. 16(a) and (b)) and gamma prime coarsening.

Fig. 12. Cavities in pressure side of M region of HPFA: (a) near surface; (b) bulk. Grain boundary carbides are Cr-rich.

Fig. 13. M region of HPFA: (a) Plate like feature originating from the grain boundary, opened grain boundary due to void coalesce and degraded MC type carbides; (b) Degraded MC type carbide.

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Fig. 14. M region of HPFA. Coalescence of secondary carbides on: (a) grain and (b) twin boundaries.

Fig. 15. Gamma prime in: (a) bottom and (b) tip section of airfoil of HPFA turbine blade.

Fig. 16. B region of HPFA near the surface. Arrows show: (a) twins and (b) slip bands.


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3. Discussion 3.1. Surface analysis Both blades had similar features of distress. Due to thick deposits, no crack was detected on any location except a region near the fracture surface where the layer was discontinues and a crack (on each blade) revealed. The analysis of this layer, present in all three regions of the airfoil, shows high concentration of Al, Ti, Cr and O. Grain boundaries contained markedly more chromium (Cr) than its concentration in the bulk of the material because of Cr-rich oxides. Under creep and high temperature oxidation conditions, diusion of Cr from the bulk to the surface takes place and has been reported in earlier studies [3]. Other oxide forming elements with comparatively high diusivity, such as aluminum and titanium, also takes place. Depletion of alloying elements to the grain boundaries changes the alloy chemistry [2] in the near surface regions which results in the accelerated corrosion/oxidation as observed in the present study. 3.2. Failure mechanism A through crack in T region and a number of large open cracks in T and M regions were present in both the failed blades. These cracks were intergranular in nature and initiated both from the pressure and the suction sides of the airfoil. Grain boundary corrosion/oxidation and fallen out grains, known as Grain Dropping [3], was observed. In general corrosion/oxidation was present. Overheated, depleted bands on the periphery of the fracture surfaces were also observed (Fig. 8). All the above observations lead to the conclusion that the blade was exposed to higher than recommended temperatures. On the fracture surfaces, intergranular fracture was dominant having transgranular type, isolated islands. Cracks probably initiated from both sides (pressure and suction) and the mechanism was grain boundary corrosion/oxidation; the cracks propagated inwards. Cracks propagated inwards to the depths until stresses were sucient to result in catastrophic failure and the tips fractured. Fracture in the former region was intergranular brittle accompanied by oxidation while in the latter it was mixed mode having transgranular regions. The tip region which fractured is the thinnest section of the airfoil. 3.3. Microstructural degradation During prolonged time exposures to high temperatures, various structural changes take place [4]; these could be:      Gamma prime particles coarsen and over-age. c 0 Particles get elongated in the direction of loading. Grain boundary carbides agglomerate to form a continuous brittle lm. Creep induced cavities form on grain boundaries normal to the stress axis. Brittle inter-metallic phases such as sigma phase may form.

Gamma prime coarsening and degradation of primary MC type carbides to secondary M23C6 type was observed in the middle and tip sections of the blades. The microanalysis of the secondary carbides (see Fig. 13 and Table 4) around the MC carbides conrms formation of M23C6 type chromium rich carbides. Hardness values of the middle and tip sections were low as compared to the bottom section of the airfoil. Cavities at the grain boundaries and agglomeration of secondary carbides at the grain boundaries as well as twin boundaries were observed.

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Fig. 17. Gamma prime in M region of: (a) un-failed blade; operating hours = 2220, (b) new blade; operating hours = 0.

Microstructure of another unfailed blade with 2220 operating hours was also observed. It was taken from dierent engine. Though carbides degradation was also observed in this case but gamma prime was less coarsened compared to the failed blade and its size was also uniform, see Fig. 17(a). Hardness of this blade at the M region was 345 HV and intergranular oxidation depth was 114 lm maximum. Microstructure of a new blade was also observed for comparison purpose. The gamma prime was much ner than the failed blades (see Fig. 17(b)) and their hardness was also much higher (385 HV). 3.4. Sequence of failure It is proposed that the cause of failure in both the blades was high temperature intergranular corrosion/ oxidation. The phenomenon occurred at both the exposed surfaces the pressure side and the suction side. Intergranular crack(s) initiated from these regions. When the cracks approached critical lengths, the tips were fractured leaving transgranular islands on the fracture surface.

4. Conclusions 1. 2. 3. 4. Blades failed due to the intergranular corrosion/oxidation. Corrosion/oxidation was observed in M and T regions of the airfoil. Failure sensitive cracks are present in other regions of the airfoil. Microstructural degradation has taken place in both the blades.

[1] Willium F. Smith. Structure and properties of engineering material. USA: McGraw Hill, Inc.; 1981. p. 47. [2] Coursourdis D, Felix P, Fischmeister H, Lindblom Y, Speidel MO, editors. Creep and structural stability of high temperature materials, high temperature alloys for gas turbines. UK: Applied Science Publisher Ltd. 1978. p. 313. [3] (a) Joseph R. Davis, editor. Fractography, metal handbook, vol. 12, USA: ASM, March 1987, p. 126, 142. (b) George F. Vander Voort, Carpenter Technology Corporation. [4] Floyd PH, Wallace W, Immarigeon J-PA. Rejuvenation of properties in turbine engine hot section components by HIPing. The Metals Society; 1981. p. 97102.