Self-healing of deformation-induced damage in Fe-W alloys

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The autonomous filling of creep-induced grain-boundary cavities by tungsten-rich precipitates has been studied for Fe-W alloys at various temperatures, loading conditions and creep rupture times. To this aim, scanning electron microscopy, energy-dispersive spectroscopy and X-ray nano-tomography were used. Additionally, the effect of local plastic deformation, followed by ageing processes, on the surface precipitation in these alloys has been studied by means of scanning electron microscopy, together with energy-dispersive spectroscopy. Finally, a diffusion-based finite element analysis has been performed to study cavity filling for different combination of diffusion mechanisms. From scanning electron micrographs it can be confirmed, that Fe-W alloys show damage-selective precipitation of the Laves phase (Fe2W). Furthermore, the filling ratios of individual cavities are determined and it is found, that the autonomous healing strongly depends on the duration of the loading at of elevated temperature. From the quantitative analysis of the size and shape of the precipitates and cavities it is found, that the orientation of grain boundaries to the stress direction has an influence on the morphology of the induced-cavities, as well as, the filling ratio. The grain-boundary cavities orientated favourably for the cavity growth show low filling ratios, due to the fact, that their propagation proceeds with a higher rate than the solute transport. The critical volume of a cavity, that can be fully filled with solute atoms, is found to be of the order of 10 μm3, while the average filling ratio for Fe-W alloys is found to be around 50% for the sample loaded to 100% of its lifetime. Moreover, the scanning electron micrographs of the indentation-deformed samples subjected to ageing revealed surface precipitates (Fe2W), which existence has to be further researched. The hardness measurements of Fe-W samples showed that after 200 hours of ageing at 580oC, the strength of the alloy is only reduced if the material has been pre-strained, but it remains constant for the solution heat treated specimens. This result shows, that the process of dislocation recovery dominates over work-hardening only in the case of a high dislocation density. Finally, the finite element analysis revealed, that during the diffusive cavity filling of an equilibrium-shaped void, three different diffusion profile regimes are plausible. Namely, a diffusive filling dominated by volume diffusion, which occurs for a relatively small spacing between neighbouring cavities and is independent of the ratio of bulk and grain-boundary diffusion. Secondly, a diffusive filling governed by volume diffusion with contributing grain-boundary diffusion, which occurs for relatively low ratios of bulk and grain-boundary diffusion. And ultimately, a diffusive filling governed by grain-boundary diffusion, which occurs for relatively high ratios of bulk and grain-boundary diffusion.