Modeling microstructurally small crack growth in Al 7075-T6
Hennessey, Conor Daniel
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Fatigue of metals is a problem that affects almost all sectors of industry, from energy to transportation, and failures to account for fatigue or incorrect estimations of service life have cost many lives. To mitigate such fatigue failures, engineers must be able to reliably predict the fatigue life of components under service conditions. Great progress has been made in this regard in the past 40 years; however one aspect of fatigue that is still being actively researched is the behavior of microstructurally small cracks (MSCs), which can diverge significantly from that of long cracks. The portion of life spent nucleating and growing a MSC over the first few grains/phases can consume over 90% of the total fatigue life under High Cycle Fatigue (HCF) conditions and is the primary source of the scatter in fatigue lives. Therefore, the development of robust fatigue design methodologies requires that the MSC regime of crack growth can be adequately modeled. The growth of microstructurally small cracks is dominated by influence of the local heterogeneity of the microstructure and is a highly complex process. In order to successfully model the growth of these microstructurally small cracks (MSCs), two computational frameworks are necessary. First, the local behavior of the material must be modeled, necessitating a constitutive relation with resolution on the scale of grain size. Second, a physically based model for the nucleation and growth of microstructurally small fatigue cracks is needed. The overall objective of this thesis is best summarized as the introduction these two computational frameworks, a crystal plasticity constitutive model and fatigue model, specifically for aluminum alloy 7075-T6, a high-strength, low density, precipitation hardened alloy used extensively in aerospace applications. Results are presented from simulations conducted to study the predicted crack growth under a variety of loading conditions and applied strain ratios, including uniaxial tension-compression and simple shear at a range of applied strain amplitudes. Results from the model are compared to experimental results obtained by other researchers under similar loading conditions. A modified fatigue crack growth algorithm that captures the early transition to Stage II growth in this alloy will also be presented.