Evaluating the Accuracy of Finite Element Models at Reduced Length Scales

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Kemp, Scott Connor
Materials Science , Digital Image Correlation , Nano-Scale Inclusions , FE modeling
Finite element models are used frequently in both engineering and scientific research. While they can provide useful information as to the performance of materials, as length scales are decreased more sophisticated model descriptions are required. It is also important to develop methods by which existing models may be verified against experimental findings. The present study evaluates the ability of various finite element models to predict materials behaviour at length scales ranging from several microns to tens of nanometers. Considering this motivation, this thesis is provided in manuscript form with the bulk of material coming from two case studies. Following an overview of relevant literature in Chapter 2, Chapter 3 considers the nucleation of delta-zirconium hydrides in a Zircaloy-2 matrix. Zirconium hydrides are an important topic in the nuclear industry as they form a brittle phase which leads to delayed hydride cracking during reactor start-up and shut-down. Several FE models are used to compare present results with literature findings and illustrate the weaknesses of standard FE approaches. It is shown that standard continuum techniques do not sufficiently capture the interfacial effects of an inclusion-matrix system. By using nano-scale material descriptions, nucleation lattice strains are obtained which are in good agreement with previous experimental studies. The motivation for Chapter 4 stems from a recognized need to develop a method for modeling corrosion behaviour of materials. Corrosion is also an issue for reactor design and an ability to predict failure points is needed. Finite element models could be used for this purpose, provided model accuracy is verified first. In Chapter 4 a technique is developed which facilitates the extraction of sub-micron resolution strain data from correlation images obtained during in-situ tensile deformation. By comparing image correlation results with a crystal plasticity finite element code it is found that good agreement between the two exists. The method outlined is material independent and could be applied to most metallurgical studies. Chapter 5 reviews the findings of each case study and makes suggestions as to the direction of future research.
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