To understand the mechanism for hydrogen-induced embrittlement in a nickel-based superalloy, detailed electronmicroscopy characterisation has been employed on the UNS N07718 (Alloy 718) after hydrogen charging and slow strain rate testing to investigate the strain localisation and damage accumulation caused by hydrogen.

Transmission Electron Microscopy analysis demonstrates that the microstructure of the material after tension is characterised by planar dislocation slip bands (DSBs) along {111}γ planes. Consistent results from Electron Channeling Contrast Imaging (ECCI) reveal that cracks always propagate along planar DSBs in the presence of hydrogen. This phenomenon is rationalized by the evident nucleation of nanoscale voids along the DSBs, especially at the intersections between nonparallel DSBs.

The proposed mechanism, confirmed by both the ECCI analysis and fractographic study by Scanning Electron Microscopy, indicates that the interaction between the hydrogen and dislocations along the DSBs leads to void nucleation. Furthermore, the results suggest that coalescence and widening of voids via the dislocation process promote the crack propagation along the DSBs in hydrogen charged Alloy 718.

This article originally appeared in Acta Materialia, 113, 2016, Pages 272–283.