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For steels, the tendency for brittle fracture depends on 1) temperature, 2) strain

rate and 3) stress state. Low temperatures, high strain rates and triaxial tensile
stresses can lead to brittle fracture of steels that show completely ductile behavior
in slow-rate tension and/or torsion tests. As a result of the brittle failure of large
structures, such as merchant ships, test methods were developed on small
specimens to simulate the conditions that could result in brittle failure. The most
popular of these tests is the Charpy impact test. In the Charpy impact test, a "V"
notched rectangular bar having a square section (10 x 10 mm) is used. The notch
geometry consists of a centrally located, 2 mm deep, 45, V notch having a 0.25
mm notch tip radius. The test is conducted by horizontally supporting the sample at
each end, on an anvil (Figure 1), and striking the sample from behind the notch
using a heavy swinging pendulum dropped from a specific height above the sample.
The speed of pendulum striking the sample is about 16 ft/sec, however fracture of
the specimen can take place in as short a time as 100 microseconds. Figure 1
Principles of the Charpy impact test and the dimensions of standard Charpy-V notch
specimen. At the instant the pendulum strikes the specimen it carries a specific
amount of energy, depending on the drop distance and the pendulum weight. If no
specimen were in the anvil, the pendulum would rise to approximately the initial
drop height on the opposite side of the drop. A calibrated dial on a given test
machine indicates the energy available for delivery to the test specimen. After the
pendulum strikes and MMAE 419 Impact Testing - Laboratory #4 2 fractures the
test specimen, it rises to a height that indicates the energy lost to the fracture
process. The energy observed in a fracture, usually expressed in foot-pounds or
joules, is read directly from the calibrated dial. The chief engineering use of the
Charpy test is in selecting materials that are resistant to brittle fracture by mean of
transition-temperature curves (see Figure 2). The transition-temperature curves are
produced by impact testing the test sample in a range of temperatures that result in
low to high impact energy behavior. The temperature at which the impact energy
changes from a low level (brittle behavior) to a high level (ductile behavior) is
known as the ductile brittle transition temperature. Figure 2 Impact energy and
fracture appearance transition-temperature curves obtained from Charpy test.
Figure 3 Changing appearance of impact test fractures in transition zone. MMAE 419
Impact Testing - Laboratory #4 3 The design philosophy using transitiontemperature curves centers about determining this transition temperature above
which brittle fracture will not occur. In general, lower ductile-to-brittle transition
temperatures are associated with materials of higher toughness. Another common
measurement obtained from the Charpy results from the examination of the
fracture surface. One can readily observe without magnification whether the
fracture is ductile (dull appearing fracture surface) or brittle (highly reflecting
fracture surface) or a mixture of both. It should be observed that for higher
temperatures where ductile failure is likely, dull appearing fracture surface
predominates. At lower temperatures (brittle fracture), a major portion of the
fracture surface should contain a highly reflective surface. Around the transition
temperature region, both dull and reflective fracture surfaces should be present in
ratios dependent on test temperatures (Figure 3).