The effects of grain size, dendritic structure and crystallographic orientation on fatigue crack propagation in IN713C nickel-based superalloy

Gang Liu*, Sean Winwood, Katie Rhodes, Soran Birosca

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The polycrystalline IN713C produced via investment casting is one of the widely-used nickel-based superalloy in automotive and aerospace industries. This alloy, however, has an apparent inhomogeneous microstructure generated during casting and contains dendritic structure that gives rise to strain localisation during loading. Yet, the effect of dendritic structure, grain size and shape as well as crystallographic orientation, which directly influence fatigue property and deformation micromechanism in the components, is rarely studied. In the present study, IN713C cast bars are tailored with three different grain structures, i.e., transition, equiaxed and columnar, with substantial grain size variations. The produced bars were tested under strain controlled LCF (Low Cycle Fatigue) and stress controlled HCF (High Cycle Fatigue) conditions at 650 °C. The results showed that most of fatigue cracks initiated from casting pores and fatigue life extended in the microstructure with a small grain size during both HCF and LCF loadings. It is also demonstrated that fatigue striations were mainly observed within dendritic areas during crack propagation, whereas the higher GND (Geometrically Necessary Dislocation) density were predominantly observed in the interdendritic areas. Here, we propose a concept of 'Crack Propagation Unit (CPU)' for better description of deformation mechanism at local scale during fatigue loading by combining fracture surface characteristic methodology and dislocation distribution analyses within the dendritic structural unit. Furthermore, this model to understand the deformation micromechanism can provide a new perspective on the interpretation of Hall-Petch relationship in casting materials that contain dendritic structure. This is further demonstrated via direct correlation of the high crack propagation resistance with the crack path divergence instead of the dislocation pile-up at the grain boundary or in-between the γ/γ′ channels. Moreover, by utilising serial sectioning method followed by layered EBSD scanning, quasi-3-D grain orientation mappings were obtained, and crystallographic texture information were directly correlated with the fracture surface observations. This allowed an investigation of the influence of orientation of individual grains and micro/macro texture on crack propagation rate. The critical stage of crack propagation in fatigue life and its correlations with microstructural features is established, offering potential practical applications by controlling the investment casting process parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-168
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Plasticity
Early online date19 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Dendritic structure
  • Fatigue crack propagation
  • GND
  • Grain size
  • Microtexture
  • Nickel-based superalloy


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