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Related to embrittlement: caustic embrittlement


Reduction or loss of ductility or toughness in a metal or plastic with little change in other mechanical properties.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A general set of phenomena whereby materials suffer a marked decrease in their ability to deform (loss of ductility) or in their ability to absorb energy during fracture (loss of toughness), with little change in other mechanical properties, such as strength and hardness. Embrittlement can be induced by a variety of external or internal factors, for example, (1) a decreasing or an increasing temperature; (2) changes in the internal structure of the material, namely, changes in crystallite (grain) size, or in the presence and distribution of alloying elements and second-phase particles; (3) the introduction of an environment which is often, but not necessarily, corrosive in nature; (4) an increasing rate of application of load or extension; and (5) the presence of surface notches.

Low-temperature embrittlement results from a competition between deformation and brittle fracture, with the latter becoming preferred at a critical temperature. For a material to be useful structurally, it is desirable that this critical temperature be below the minimum anticipated service temperature; in most cases, this is room temperature. At high temperatures, internal structural changes that lead to intergranular embrittlement can occur. Embrittlement usually occurs in the creep temperature range, a temperature at which deformation can occur under very low stresses; and the two processes are believed to be connected.

In many metals, particularly structural steels, annealing or heat treating in certain temperature ranges sensitizes the grain boundaries in such a way that intergranular embrittlement subsequently occurs during service. To reduce the brittleness, the steel undergoes an annealing treatment called tempering, which, while decreasing the strength, usually increases the toughness. The exception to this trade-off occurs when the steel is tempered at 1000°F (538°C). This can lead to a mode of intergranular fracture called temper embrittlement; such a process has led to catastrophic failures in turbines, rotors, and other high-strength steel parts. In other metals, there are less specific but similar types of embrittlement resulting from critical heat treatments. See Heat treatment (metallurgy), Tempering

Metals can fracture catastrophically when exposed to a variety of environments. These environments can range from liquid metals to aqueous and nonaqueous solutions to gases such as hydrogen.

If a thin film of a liquid metal is placed on the oxide-free surface of a solid metal, the tensile properties of the solid metal will not be affected, but the fracture behavior can be markedly different from that observed in air. Although many different liquid metals are capable of inducing embrittlement in a variety of solid metals, some of the more common couples, many of which have important engineering and design consequences, are mercury embrittlement of brass, lead embrittlement of steel, and gallium embrittlement of aluminum.

Stress corrosion cracking can occur when a metal is stressed and simultaneously exposed to an environment which may be, but is not necessarily, corrosive in nature. Both stress and environment are required; if only one of these elements is present, the metal usually displays no embrittlement. See Corrosion

Hydrogen embrittlement is a form of embrittlement often considered to be a type of stress corrosion cracking. Hydrogen atoms can enter a metal, causing severe embrittlement, again with little effect on other mechanical properties. This phenomenon was originally observed, and is most critical in, steels, but it is not documented to occur in titanium and nickel alloys, and may lead to cracking in other alloy systems as well.

Factors such as notches and the rate of application of stress can modify the response of a material to a specific type of embrittlement. In general, notches or surface flaws always enhance embrittlement, both by acting as a stress raiser and by providing a preexisting crack.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Engineering. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Brumovsky, "Analysis of a link of embrittlement mechanisms and neutron flux effect as applied to reactor pressure vessel materials of WWER," Journal of Nuclear Materials, vol.
A special step heat treatment provoking segregation (segregation provoking treatment) was carried out to reveal susceptibility of the material to thermal embrittlement. The time of thermal exposure at each step was chosen so that at each temperature phosphorus diffusion length was the same.
The cathodic potential applied of -1.5 V below OCP was carried out in order to simulate cathodic protection system [27], once ISO 15589-1 indicates that from values lower than -1.2 V the steel is already suffering effects of hydrogen embrittlement.
They concluded that a copper content greater than 0.1 wt% generates copper-rich precipitates that are responsible of irradiation embrittlement in reactor pressure vessel materials [10].
"Hydrogen embrittlement is an old mystery," says Song.
That is, embrittlement with annealing is quite obvious for high-speed testing.
In this first of two volumes, materials scientists, physicists, and other specialists examine the hydrogen embrittlement problem, methods for characterizing and analyzing hydrogen embrittlement, and the hydrogen embrittlement of relevant alloy classes.
It is often considered to be interchangeable with "hydrogen-induced cracking (HIC)" and/or "hydrogen embrittlement (HE)".
For instance, there is the problem of embrittlement: when steel, aluminum and magnesium are constantly exposed to hydrogen, their ductility is reduced.
Unlike traditional PCs, new Lexan DMX resin provides exceptional clarity and resistance to haze/reduced light transmission and embrittlement from prolonged ammonia exposure for extended luminaire life and reduced energy consumption.
They consider such aspects as the International Atomic Energy Agency's coordinated research projects on the structural integrity of reactor pressure vessels, the embrittlement correlation method for the Japanese reactor pressure vessel materials, irradiation-induced grain-boundary solute segregation and its effect on the ductile-to-brittle transition temperatures in reactor pressure vessel steels, inter-relationships between true stress-true strain behavior and deformation microstructure in the plastic deformation of neutron-irradiated or work-hardened austenitic stainless steel, and the influence of neutron irradiation on energy accumulation and dissipation during plastic flow and hardening of metallic polycrystals.