SUBJECT: Ph.D. Dissertation Defense
BY: Benjamin Adair
TIME: Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 12:00 p.m.
PLACE: MRDC Building, 4211
TITLE: Characterization and Modeling of Thermo-Mechanical Fatigue Crack Growth in a Single Crystal Superalloy
COMMITTEE: Dr. Steve Johnson, Co-Chair (MSE/ME)
Dr. Stephen Antolovich, Co-Chair (MSE/ME)
Dr. Rick Neu (ME/MSE)
Dr. Shuman Xia (ME)
Dr. Julian Rimoli (AE)


Turbine engine blades are subjected to extreme conditions characterized by significant and simultaneous excursions in both stress and temperature. These conditions promote thermo-mechanical fatigue (TMF) crack growth which can significantly reduce component design life beyond that which would be predicted from isothermal/constant load amplitude results. A thorough understanding of the thermo-mechanical fatigue crack behavior in single crystal superalloys is crucial to accurately evaluate component life to ensure reliable operations without blade fracture through the use of ‘retirement for cause’ (RFC). This research was conducted on PWA1484, a single crystal superalloy used by Pratt & Whitney for turbine blades. Initially, an isothermal constant amplitude fatigue crack growth rate database was developed, filling a void that currently exists in published literature. Through additional experimental testing, fractography, and analysis, the effects of temperature interactions, load interactions, oxidation and secondary crystallographic orientation on the fatigue crack growth rate and the underlying mechanisms responsible were determined. Temperature interaction testing between 649°C and 982°C showed that for both R = 0.1 and 0.7, retardation is present at larger alternating cycle blocks and acceleration is present at smaller alternating cycle blocks. This transition from acceleration to retardation occurs between 10 and 20 alternating cycles for R = 0.1 and around 20 alternating cycles for R = 0.7. Load interaction testing showed that given a constant overload size, the magnitude of the crack driving force greatly influences whether acceleration or retardation will occur. Semi-realistic spectrum testing demonstrated the extreme sensitivity that relative loading levels play on fatigue crack growth life while also calling into question the importance of dwell times. A crack trajectory modeling approach using blade primary and secondary orientations was used to determine whether crack propagation will occur on crystallographic planes or normal to the applied load. Crack plane determination using a scanning electron microscope enabled verification of the crack trajectory modeling approach.