Alloy and Composition Dependence of Hydrogen Embrittlement Susceptibility in High-Strength Steel Fasteners

High-strength steel fasteners characterized by tensile strengths above 1100 MPa are often used in critical applications where a failure can have catastrophic consequences. Preventing hydrogen embrittlement (HE) failure is a fundamental concern implicating the entire fastener supply chain. Research is typically conducted under idealized conditions that cannot be translated into know-how prescribed in fastener industry standards and practices. Additionally, inconsistencies and even contradictions in fastener industry standards have led to much confusion and many preventable or misdiagnosed fastener failures. HE susceptibility is a function of the material condition, which is comprehensively described by the metallurgical and mechanical properties. Material strength has a first-order effect on HE susceptibility, which increases significantly above 1200 MPa and is characterized by a ductile–brittle transition. For a given concentration of hydrogen and at equal strength, the critical strength above which the ductile– brittle transition begins can vary due to second-order effects of chemistry, tempering temperature and sub-microstructure. Additionally, non-homogeneity of the metallurgical structure resulting from poorly controlled heat treatment, impurities and non-metallic inclusions can increase HE susceptibility of steel in ways that are measurable but unpredictable. 
Below 1200 MPa, non-conforming quality is often the root cause of real-life failures. This article is part of the themed issue ‘The challenges of hydrogen and metals’.

Date : 23.11.2017