Modelling the coupling between hydrogen diffusion and the mechanical behaviour of metals

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Abstract

It is well known that hydrogen can have a detrimental effect on the mechanical properties of metals. The aim here is to provide a fully coupled model of the HELP (Hydrogen Enhanced Local Plasticity) mechanism with hydrogen transport. Using the similarities between the heat and mass diffusion equations, a coupled temperature-displacement procedure has been adopted to allow the coupling between hydrogen diffusion and the mechanical behaviour of the material to be simulated. The diffusion equation takes into account the fact that hydrogen atoms reside in interstitial sites and in trapping sites such as dislocations. In the simulations presented here it is assumed that concentration of hydrogen at the dislocations is in equilibrium with the concentration in the matrix interstitial sites. The mechanical behaviour of the material is represented by an isotropic hardening law in which the flow stress decreases with increasing hydrogen content in the matrix which is evaluated by solving the fully coupled mechanical diffusion equations. We use the model to analyse the response of a plane strain component which contains deep and sharp doubled-edged notches. For highly constrained components of this type the hydrostatic component of stress scales with the local yield strength of the material. A high local hydrostatic stress would result in a high hydrogen concentration, but a high hydrogen concentration results in softening, i.e. a low yield strength, and therefore a low hydrostatic stress. These conflicting relationships result in a balance being achieved between hydrostatic stress, hydrogen concentration and yield strength, i.e. the response does not become unstable. Also there is a high degree of kinematic determinacy in the way which the component deforms, i.e. the strain pattern in the presence of hydrogen is very similar to that when there is no hydrogen. A consequence of these two effects is that softening of the constitutive response due to the presence of hydrogen, does not lead to localization of strain and a macroscopic brittle response. Softening must be combined with other degradation process for the material to embrittle.

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Barrera, O., Tarleton, E., Tang, H. W., & Cocks, A. C. F. (2016). Modelling the coupling between hydrogen diffusion and the mechanical behaviour of metals. Computational Materials Science, 122, 219–228. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.commatsci.2016.05.030

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