A quantum-mechanically informed continuum model of hydrogen embrittlement

S. Serebrinsky, E. A. Carter, M. Ortiz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

265 Scopus citations


We present a model of hydrogen embrittlement based upon: (i) a cohesive law dependent on impurity coverage that is calculated from first principles; (ii) a stress-assisted diffusion equation with appropriate boundary conditions accounting for the environment; (iii) a static continuum analysis of crack growth including plasticity; and (iv) the Langmuir relation determining the impurity coverage from its bulk concentration. We consider the effect of the following parameters: yield strength, stress intensity factor, hydrogen concentration in the environment, and temperature. The calculations reproduce the following experimental trends: (i) time to initiation and its dependence on yield strength and stress intensity factor; (ii) finite crack jump at initiation; (iii) intermittent crack growth; (iv) stages I and II of crack growth and their dependence on yield strength; (v) the effect of the environmental impurity concentration on the threshold stress intensity factor; and (vi) the effect of temperature on stage II crack velocity in the low-temperature range. In addition, the theoretically and experimentally observed intermittent cracking may be understood as being due to a time lag in the diffusion of hydrogen towards the cohesive zone, since a buildup of hydrogen is necessary in order for the crack to advance. The predictions of the model are in good quantitative agreement with available measurements, suggesting that hydrogen-induced degradation of cohesion is a likely mechanism for hydrogen-assisted cracking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2403-2430
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


  • Cohesive theories of fracture
  • Density-functional theory
  • Hydrogen embrittlement
  • Multiscale modelling
  • Stress-assisted diffusion


Dive into the research topics of 'A quantum-mechanically informed continuum model of hydrogen embrittlement'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this