Observation of Stress Corrosion Cracking of Stainless Steel Using Real-Time In-Situ High-Speed Atomic Force Microscopy and Correlative Techniques

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Abstract

A novel approach has been designed to observe stress corrosion cracking (SCC) as it occurs in-situ, in real time. State-of-the-art contact mode high-speed atomic force microscopy (HS-AFM) has been utilised to measure in-situ SCC propagation with nanometre resolution on AISI Type 304 stainless steel in an aggressive salt solution. SCC is an important failure mode in many metal systems but has a complicated mechanism that makes failure difficult to predict. Prior to the in-situ experiments, the contributions of microstructure, environment and stress to SCC were independently studied using HS-AFM. Uplift of grain boundaries before cracking was observed, indicating a subsurface contribution to the cracking mechanism. Focussed ion beam milling revealed a network of intergranular
cracks below the surface lined with a thin oxide, indicating that the SCC process is dominated by local stress at oxide-weakened boundaries. Subsequent analysis by atom probe tomography of a crack tip showed a thin Cr-rich oxide at the surface of the open crack. This study shows how in-situ HS-AFM observations in combination with complementary techniques can give new insight into the mechanisms of SCC.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3 (2021)
Number of pages10
Journalnpj Materials Degradation
Volume5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • atomic force microscopy
  • characterization and analytical techniques
  • corrosion
  • scanning probe microscopy

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