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Engineering Fracture Mechanics 76 (2009) 709–714

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Engineering Fracture Mechanics
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Microstructural aspects of crack nucleation during cyclic loading
of AA7075-T651
H. Weiland a,*, J. Nardiello b, S. Zaefferer c, S. Cheong a, J. Papazian b, Dierk Raabe c
Alcoa Inc.,100 Technical Drive, Alcoa Center, PA 15069, USA
Northrop Grumman AEW/EW Systems, 925 S. Oyster Bay Road, Bethpage, NY 11714, USA
Max-Planck Institute for Iron Research, Max Planck Straße 1, D 40237 Düsseldorf, Germany

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: A series of fatigue test samples made of 7075-T651 aluminum were interrupted at various
Received 9 January 2007 life fractions and the number of debonded, cracked particles and cracks in the metal matrix
Received in revised form 24 November 2008 was determined quantitatively as a function of load cycles. It was found that only cracked
Accepted 26 November 2008
constituent particles nucleate a matrix crack. The crystallography of one individual crack
Available online 10 December 2008
and its three-dimensional shape was determined by serial sectioning in a scanning electron
microscope by applying focused ion beam (FIB) milling in combination with orientation
imaging microscopy (OIM). The limited data suggest that the initial growth direction of a
Crack initiation
crack is influenced by the crystallographic orientation of the matrix into which the crack
3D microstructure is growing.
Fatigue Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Optimization of aluminum alloys for aerospace applications requires a quantitative understanding of the various micro-
structural attributes controlling nucleation and growth of cracks in the metallic matrix. Furthermore, in monolithic parts,
where crack arrest from joints is not given, the role of the microstructure becomes increasingly of importance, requiring
a quantitative understanding of the damage evolution in complex microstructures.
The development of current aluminum alloys for aerospace applications was based on a sound understanding of the influ-
ence of the microstructure on damage related properties such as fracture toughness and fatigue [1–5]. However, aluminum
alloys developed in the first half of the last century, such as AA7075, were developed mainly using Edisonian approaches.
While a few studies exists on the effect of aging conditions on properties, detailed analysis on microstructural attributes con-
trolling crack nucleation and growth during monotonic or cyclic loading were not available at the time this alloy was devel-
oped. However, it was learned early on that iron-bearing second phases in the 5–50 lm in diameter range, commonly
referred to as constituent phases, were the initiation sites for cracks [1]. Consequently, later alloy developments included
the reduction in iron and silicon to improve damage related properties. On the other hand, if the particle density is reduced
as with current generation alloys, other microstructural characteristics such as grain boundaries and grain orientations, will
contribute to crack nucleation and growth. The reader is referred to Refs. [1–5] for a detailed discussion on the effect of
microstructure on damage in commercial aluminum alloys. It has to be pointed out that extrapolation of knowledge gained
in Al-Cu systems (2xxx series alloys) cannot readily be extrapolated to Al–Zn (7xxx series alloys) due to differences in phases
and strengthening mechanisms.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 724 337 3133.
E-mail address: (H. Weiland).

0013-7944/$ - see front matter Ó 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Samples were tested in low cycle fatigue (3 Hz. Additionally. Geometry of match-stick samples cut from test coupon. Area of analysis shaded gray. Sections of 20 lm  30 lm were cut at an angle of 15° relative to the sample surface and at a vertical spacing of 0. with a rib pad were machined at the T/4 location.8 mm. identification of debonded and cracked particles. Each section was characterized by BSE images and (OIM). Stereological characterization of all particles detected. resulting in a total area analyzed of 0. and of cracked particles nucleating a matrix crack was performed using semi-automatic image processing with a KS400 image anal- ysis software by Zeiss. the size of cracked particles nucleating a matrix crack and the associated crack length was determined.7 mm (Fig. 35% relative humidity. Schematic of fatigue test coupon with load direction indicated. Twenty BSE images were collected for each test condition at a magnification of 2000. resulting in four samples for each life time. Weiland et al. R = 0) at 276 MPa (room temperature.08 lm2. 2. Fig. The crystallography of these cracks and their three-dimensional shape was deter- mined from serial sectioning by focused ion beam (FIB) milling in combination with orientation imaging microscopy (OIM). that is at about 19 mm below the plate surface. UTS 557 MPa).008 lm2. match-stick shaped samples were cut out such that each hole was cut in the middle along the loading direction (Fig. A series of intermediate samples was produced with cycles ranging from 10 cycles to 8000 cycles (see Table 1). For each life time. The match-stick sam- ples were quantitatively analyzed for the number density of debonded and cracked particles and for cracked particles with an associated matrix crack. 1b. constant amplitude loading). In average 1160 particles were analyzed at each fatigue life step. This sample geometry allowed microstructure observation in each hole at the locations of maximum stress – that is at the location were initiation of dam- age is expected. More details on this three-dimensional microstructure analysis technique can be found in [6]. Experimental procedures A 76.44 mm2.5 lm. Under these test conditions. The latter will be reported separately. 1a). A 30 square pixel limit excluded any particle less than 0. Fig. / Engineering Fracture Mechanics 76 (2009) 709–714 In the current study.5 mm  355. 1b). Surfaces of sample holes were electro-polished prior to testing to facilitate microstructure analysis by scanning electron microscopy (SEM).710 H.6 mm  5. The data suggest that the initial growth direction of a crack is determined by both the local stress field around the particle and the crystallographic orientation of the matrix into which the crack is growing. The individual image area was 22. The purpose of the current work thus is to quantitatively identify the role of large second phase particles in controlling crack nucleation during cyclic loading with the goal to enable microstructure-based life prediction of airframe parts made from these alloys. Failed samples were analyzed for crack initiation sites as well as for secondary cracking in the hole.2 mm thick plate of 7075-T651 was produced (YS 511 MPa. 1a. the number fraction of debonded and cracked particles was determined quantitatively as a function of fatigue cycles from interrupted fatigue tests. A series of two open hole fatigue coupons of 47. Number of cycles 10 100 1000 3000 5000 7000 Cracks into matrix 0 0 3 8 5 10 Cracked particles 0 10 41 35 46 45 Debonded particles 0 31 93 82 115 105 . the sample typically failed close to 9000 cycles. Table 1 Damage of microstructure as a function of fatigue cycles. Three-dimensional microstructure analysis by serial sectioning was performed with a Zeiss Cross- beam XB 1540 FIB–SEM using a EDAX/TSL EBSD system with a DigiView camera. All SEM analysis was performed with a SIRION SEM optimized for backscattered electron (BSE) imaging. The hole diameter was 4.

Multiple sec- ondary cracks were observed at the surface of the holes below the primary crack (Fig. 2b and c). These secondary cracks were associated with stringers of constituent particles. After 100 cycles. 2a and b) of sizes larger than 5 lm in diameter. Weiland et al. the first dam- Fig. (c) hole surface. The constituent particle density was determined as 2637 particles/mm2. (a) and (b) examples of initiation sites.1. 3. H. From the geometry of the stringers of particles it is concluded that the ob- served initiation sites of the primary crack make up one end of a stringer of constituents. Results and discussion 3. Fig. Damage progression The series of samples with increased cycle life provide the opportunity to study the onset and progression of damage in the microstructure. . Initiation from slip localization at grain boundaries was not observed in this material. 3. Debonding at a constituent particle. Fracture initiation sites All initiation sites of primary cracks were associated with individual constituent particles (Fig. 2. / Engineering Fracture Mechanics 76 (2009) 709–714 711 3. The fracture surface showed trans- granular fracture typical of fatigue damage in these alloys. (b) view on crack and hole surface.2. characterized by the tortuosity of the fracture surface and the absence of intergranular facets.

5 resided in a grain of an orientation close toð0 0 1Þ½1 grain orientation has been reported in the literature as frequently being associated with cracks in such alloys [2]. 3) and cracked constituent particles (Fig. Ten sections were cut with a section step of 500 nm. all associated with cracked particles. Three-dimensional analysis of a crack initiation site The microstructure analysis reported above characterized the surface of the hole. The matrix visible at the hole surface (above P1 in Figs. the number of debonded particles increases. ±45° configuration with respect to the crack plane such as in Mode 1 cracking. where cracks had formed. However. Comparing the crack plane with the available slip systems in each section revealed that the matrix crack visible at the hole surface is throughout the analyzed volume in the plane of one of the available slip systems (Fig. 3. however. no cracks in the aluminum matrix are present. was about 8 lm in length (Fig. Arrow pointing to matrix crack. the overall fatigue life is decided by the cracks initiated at low cycles. began to be revealed (Fig. . the damage to particles has significantly increased. P2. The matrix crack grew at about 45° to the long particle axis. Each layer was characterized by OIM.712 H. which at the surface just showed one crack. This containing the subsurface crack pointing from P1 to P2 in Fig. the cracks in the matrix. From the alignment of the major crack with the slip system and the angle the crack forms with respect to the loading direction. and was completely cracked with a matrix crack emanating from the particle crack. 5 top). The subsurface crack. It can be seen from the relative position of the cracks in each section analyzed that the fracture surface of both cracks extends approximately normal to the sample surface into the grain matrix. The crack  0. This subsurface particle was partially cracked (black arrows in Fig. 4. is not aligned with any slip systems. 4). which are cracked particles and which are created in the microstructure at about 10% of the fatigue life. Less than one percent of all particles are cracked. The sample with a loading of 1000 cycles was selected. A few cracks in the matrix are present. The secondary crack most Fig. Thus serial section- ing was performed using a FIB–SEM. only one crack analysis will be discussed here in detail. the number of cracked constituent parti- cles seems to reach saturation. which always emanate from a crack within a broken particle. Considering the relatively constant number of cracks growing into the matrix at high cycles. Microstructure selected for 3D analysis at 5000 cycles. P1. a second but larger sub- surface constituent particle. 3 results in a stress intensity factor significant lower than a cracked particle imposes on the aluminum matrix. with about 20% of all cracked constituent particles having an associated matrix crack. Particle P1. with the latter being in line with the fatigue loading axis. After two cuts into the material surface. The alignment of the crack with an available slip system does not imply that the fracture is of cleavage type.3. Nor do the available slip systems form a symmetrical. 5). The observation that matrix cracks are only associated with cracked and not deb- onded particles can be understood in terms of the stress intensity factor. The crystallographic orientations of the grains containing the initiated cracks were determined by OIM (Fig. 5) and matrix cracks were not associated with it.6% of all constituent particles are cracked and 8% are debonded. Two locations were analyzed. while about three times as many show signs of debonding (Table 1). determining grain morphologies and crystal- lographic orientations of individual grains. Weiland et al. however. it is assumed that this crack has formed under Mode 2 conditions that is shear stresses. The sizes of the debonded particles lie on the small side of the average particle size. At this point in the sample life. After 1000 cycles. The selected particle. / Engineering Fracture Mechanics 76 (2009) 709–714 age in the microstructure can be observed in the form of debonded (Fig. it is very likely that the underlying microstructure contributes to the observed crack nucleation and growth. 3. 4 and 5) nucleated in a grain of an orientation close to ð1 1 0Þ½1 1  1 0. Cracks will emanate from the microstructure feature with the highest stress intensity factor. 4). 6). that is the cracks do not show signs of slanted surfaces. A particle with an emanating matrix crack was selected. reach a saturation number as well. A curved interface debonding such as seen in Fig. At this stage. has a second matrix crack at the opposite site of the first crack emerging. none with debonded particles. With increasing cycles. Furthermore.

P1: surface particle. but due to the lack of available slip systems has not propagated far. White arrows point to matrix cracks. H.) likely is also a Mode 2 crack. Weiland et al. (a) OIM map of Fig. Black arrows point to partial cracks in subsurface particle. Vertical white lines in P2 are an imaging artifact. 6. 5. (For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend. it did not fracture completely at this stage of the fatigue life. Unit cells with primary slip plane and slip direction are plotted for – grains with a matrix crack. that a crack nucleating in the matrix adjacent to a second phase particle. 5. relative size. / Engineering Fracture Mechanics 76 (2009) 709–714 713 Fig. Specifically it was observed that debonding of the particle–matrix interface does not contribute to crack formation in the aluminum matrix. It is clear from these observations. Due to its larger size and less elongated shape. Section 6 at 3 lm below hole surface. the reader is referred to the web version of this article. Establishing the conditions for fracturing particles requires further study. Thus a high density of debonding does not result in cracks into the matrix.4. (b) Color code for (a). that is elongation. The double arrow indicates loading direction. color coded by the crystallographic direction normal to the aluminum plate. Cracks in the aluminum matrix were always associated with a . Fig. the second phase particle needs to be completely fractured. 3. however. Summary The systematic study of the damage evolution in a high-strength aluminum alloy containing a large density of constituent particles showed that the local microstructure has an affect on the nucleation of fatigue cracks. The open question is the role of the subsurface particle. it is clear that geometrical attributes. P2: subsurface particle. and geometry are critical.

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