Staircase-Like Crack Progression Due to Hydrogen Embrittlement of Cold-Worked Steel Strand

Joseph Rogelio Fernandez


Stressed carbon steel strand in an ungrouted duct susceptibility to pitting corrosion is low due to surface corrosion, but susceptibility of steel strand to Hydrogen Embrittlement (HE) can increase under those conditions.

The HE will facilitate crack growth within the strand. Various crack propagation mechanisms, such as longitudinal splitting and shear-cracking, have been shown as possible strand failure mechanisms by themselves in strand, but this may not be true in stressed strand in piles that has been embrittled by Hydrogen and without pre-cracking (Cracks initiating from stress concentrations naturally rather than with notching). Concentration measurements were performed to determine the level of Hydrogen involved in the embrittlement.

Results indicate that the fracture mechanism differs from shear cracking or longitudinal splitting alone as previously shown, but is a multi-step process of crack propagation starting perpendicular to stress, followed by variations of inter-lamellae longitudinal splitting at brittle region of lamellae and shear cracking at breaks in the lamellae. This process results in the crack following a “staircase” progression, and finally leading to ductile overload once cross-section has been significantly reduced. This fracture mechanism was also shown to be valid whether the strand was stressed by bending or mult-axially by stressing through a duct.


Mechanical; Creep and stress rupture; Thermomechanical Processing; Failure analysis; Corrosion and wear

Full Text:



ACI (American Concrete Institute) "ACI 222.2R-01, Corrosion of Prestressing Steels - Report by ACI Committee 222." Farmington Hills, MI, 2001.

D. G. Enos , and J. R. Scully, “A Critical-Strain Criterion for Hydrogen Embrittlement of Cold-Drawn, Ultrafine Pearlitic Steel”, Metallurgical and Materials Transactions, 2002, Volume 33A, Pages 1-16.

D. A. Jones, “Principles and Prevention of Corrosion”, Second Edition, Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1996.

I. Moro, L. Briottet, P. Lemoine, E. Andrieu, C. Blanc, and G. Odemer, “Hydrogen Embrittlement Susceptibility of a High Strength Steel X80”, Materials Science and Engineering A, July 2010, Volume 527, pages 7252-7260.

S. Lynch, “Hydrogen Embrittlement Phenomena and Mechanisms”, Journal of Corrosion Review, 2012, Volume 30, pg. 105-123.

J. Mietz, “Investigations on Hydrogen-Induced Embrittlement of Quenched and Tempered Prestressing Steels”, Materials and Corrosion Journal, 2000, Volume 51, pages 80-90.

W. H. Hartt, C.C. Kumria, and R.J. Kessler, “Influence of Potential, Chlorides, pH, and Precharging Time on Embrittlement of Cathodically Polarized Prestressing Steel”, Corrosion Journal, May 1993, Volume 49, Number 5, pages 377-385.

R. A. Oriani, “The Physical and Metallurgical Aspects of Hydrogen in Metals”, Fourth International Conference on Cold Fusion, 1993.

D. G. Enos, A. J. Williams, G. G. Clemeña, and J. R. Scully, “Impressed-Current Cathodic Protection of Steel-Reinforced Concrete Pilings: Protection Criteria and the Threshold for Hydrogen Embrittlement”, Corrosion, May 1998, Volume 54, Number 5, Pages 389-402.

J. Fernandez, “Stress corrosion cracking of high strength stainless steels for use as strand in prestressed marine environment concrete construction: SCC of high strength SS for use as strand”, Material and Corrosion Volume 66, Pages 1269–1278, April 2015.

A. A. Sagüés, J. Fernandez, M. Hutchinson, and G. Mullins,” Corrosion Characteristics of Unprotected Post-Tensioning Strands Under Stress “, Florida Department of Transportation BDJ84 977-22, May 2014.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.