Investigation of environmental cracking of a 1100-MPa yield strength A723 steel cannon tube subjected to prototype firings is described. Metallographic results show cracking of the steel beneath a 0.12-mm protective layer of chromium. Cracks undermine and remove sections of chromium and lead to localized erosion that ruins the cannon. Key features of the firing thermal damage and cracking are: (i) recrystalization of the chromium to a depth of up to 0.08 mm; (ii) steel transformation to 0.19 mm below the chrome surface; (iii) two different periodic arrays of cracks normal to the hoop and axial directions, with mean depths of 0.23 and 0.46 mm, respectively. Time-temperature-depth profiles for the firing cycle were derived via bi-material finite difference analysis of a semi-infinite solid which incorporated cannon combustion gas temperatures and material properties that vary as a function of temperature. The temperature and depth associated with the steel transformation were used to solve iteratively for the convective heat transfer coefficient. This value was further confirmed by the depths of chromium recrystalization and of the crack arrays in the two orientations. A profile of maximum temperature versus depth is used to determine the near-bore applied and residual stress distributions within the tube. The measured volume change of steel transformation is used to determine an upper limit on applied and residual stresses. These stresses are used to determine crack-tip stress intensity factors for the observed crack arrays, and hence provide some explanation for the differential depths of cracking. The near-bore temperature and residual stress distributions are used to help determine the cause of hydrogen cracking and measures to prevent cracking. Compressive yielding due to thermal loading produces near-bore tensile residual stresses, and thereby causes hydrogen cracking. Prevention of cracking is discussed in relationship to hydrogen crack growth rate tests of alternative alloys and coatings.

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