Our Work

Forensic Determination of Residual Stresses from Fracture Surfaces

Residual stresses can be a main cause of fractures, but forensic failure analysis is difficult because the residual stresses are relaxed after fracture because of the new free surface. In this paper, a method is presented for a posteriori determination of the residual stresses by measuring the geometric mismatch between the mating fracture surfaces. Provided the fracture is not overly ductile, so that plasticity may be neglected, a simple, elastic calculation based on Bueckner’s principle gives the original residual stresses normal to the fracture plane. The method was demonstrated on a large 7000 series aluminum alloy forging that fractured during an attempt to cut a section into two pieces. Neutron diffraction measurements on another section of the same forging convincingly validated the residual stresses determined from the fracture surface mismatch. After accounting for closure, an analysis of the residual stress intensity factor based on the measured residual stress agreed with the material’s fracture toughness and fractographic evidence of the failure initiation site. The practicality of the fracture surface method to investigate various failures is discussed in light of the required assumptions.

Preprint (at LANL)