Experimental and numerical study of crack healing in a nuclear glass

Abstract : a b s t r a c t An experimental study of thermally or water-induced crack healing in an inactive borosil-icate glass, chemically analogous to that used in France for the vitrification of nuclear waste was carried out. Partial welding of glass plates was observed after annealing in air at 425 °C (77 °C below T g) when at least 20 MPa compressive stress was applied, while annealing at 450 °C under 20 MPa led to a complete disappearance of the interface. Closure of indenta-tion-induced cracks was observed during annealing at 400 °C in an ESEM as a result of viscous relaxation of residual stresses but it did not constitute a sufficient proof of crack healing. DCDC specimens were thus pre-cracked in an ESEM and then either annealed at various temperatures (350–490 °C) in secondary vacuum or in air, or left in water at 70–90 °C, sometimes under a compressive stress normal to the crack face. The specimens were then reloaded in the ESEM and the crack opening displacements under a given load were compared to those measured during pre-cracking. The cracks were bridged by an alteration layer over a distance from the crack tip which decreased as loading increased. The restraining effect of these bridges on crack opening was assessed via finite element simulations, using interface elements. The tensile strength of the bridging layer was estimated as 27–39 MPa after vacuum annealing at 400 °C, 11–20 MPa after 15 days in water at 90 °C and 44–78 MPa after 11 days in water at 70 °C under 5 MPa normal compression. Partially healed cracks did not resume propagation from their former crack tip, but due to branch cracks re-initiated a few hundred microns behind it which grow avoiding the healed area. This behaviour was explained using finite element simulations.
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Véronique Doquet, N. Ben Ali, E Chabert, F Bouyer. Experimental and numerical study of crack healing in a nuclear glass. Mechanics of Materials, Elsevier, 2014, 80, pp.145-162. ⟨10.1016/j.mechmat.2014.09.003⟩. ⟨hal-01082803⟩

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