Flow and fracture of austenitic stainless steels at cryogenic temperatures Articles uri icon

publication date

  • December 2021

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 28


  • 108042


  • 258

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0013-7944

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-7315


  • In this paper, we have characterized the microstructural evolution and the plastic flow and fracture behaviours of AISI 304L and AISI 316LN stainless steel grades at liquid nitrogen temperature (77 K) and at liquid helium temperature (4 K). Uninterrupted tensile experiments, where the sample is continuously deformed under quasi-static loading conditions until fracture, have been carried out with a Single-Section Sample to obtain the stress-strain characteristics of the two grades. Interrupted tensile experiments, in which the sample is unloaded before fracture, have been performed with a novel Double-Section Sample to later characterize the straininduced martensitic transformation at different levels of deformation. The content of martensite has been determined post-mortem, using magnetic induction, electron backscatter diffraction and quantitative light optical micrography. The results obtained with the three methods show quantitative agreement, and reveal that the martensitic transformation in AISI 304L occurs faster and to a greater extent than in AISI 316LN both at 77 K and at 4 K. To the authors' knowledge, in this paper we provide the first experimental results for the evolution of the content of straininduced martensite in AISI 304L and AISI 316LN samples tested at liquid helium temperature. In addition, the experimental data for the evolution of the martensite volume fraction with the strain have been used to identify the temperature-dependent parameters of the martensitic transformation kinetic model proposed by Olson and Cohen (1975). Moreover, Mode I fracture tests with fatigue-precracked Compact Samples have been carried out to determine the fracture properties of the two investigated materials using the "resistance curve procedure" (ASTME1820-20a). The crack-growth resistance curves have been obtained with four different methods here referred to as ASTM Compliance Method, W-N Compliance Method, Modified W-N Compliance Method and ASTM Normalization Method, which is an original methodological contribution of this paper. While the four approaches yield similar results for the fracture toughness, only the W-N Compliance Method and the Modified W-N Compliance Method, the latter being proposed in this paper, fulfil all the requirements of the standard ASTM-E1820-20a so that the calculated fracture toughness can be accepted as a material property. The comparison of results for both materials and testing temperatures shows that AISI 316LN displays higher fracture toughness than AISI 304L. Moreover, post-mortem microstructural analysis of the Compact Samples near the fracture surface has revealed that the content of martensite is greater in AISI 304L than in AISI 316LN. Furthermore, for AISI 304L more martensite is formed in the sample tested at 77 K because the plastic deformation near the crack is more than at 4 K.


  • Industrial Engineering
  • Materials science and engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Naval Engineering
  • Physics


  • austenitic stainless steels; mechanical characterization; fracture toughness; strain-induced martensite; cryogenic temperatures