Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A

, Volume 42, Issue 7, pp 1793-1804

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Anomalous Fatigue Behavior and Fatigue-Induced Grain Growth in Nanocrystalline Nickel Alloys

  • Brad L. BoyceAffiliated withThe Materials Science and Engineering Center, Sandia National Laboratories Email author 
  • , Henry A. PadillaIIAffiliated withThe Materials Science and Engineering Center, Sandia National Laboratories


Fatigue failure due to repetitive loading of metallic devices is a pervasive engineering concern. The present work reveals extraordinary fatigue resistance in nanocrystalline (NC) alloys, which appears to be associated with the small (<100 nm) grain size inhibiting traditional cyclic damage processes. In this study, we examine the fatigue performance of three electrodeposited NC Ni-based metals: Ni, Ni-0.5Mn, and Ni-22Fe (PERMALLOY). When subjected to fatigue stresses at and above the tensile yield strength where conventional coarse-grained (CG) counterparts undergo low-cycle fatigue failure (<104 cycles to failure), these alloys exhibit exceptional fatigue lives (in some cases, >107 cycles to failure). Postmortem examinations show that failed samples contain an aggregate of coarsened grains at the crack initiation site. The experimental data and accompanying microscopy suggest that the NC matrix undergoes abnormal grain growth during cyclic loading, allowing dislocation activity to persist over length scales necessary to initiate a fatigue crack by traditional fatigue mechanisms. Thus, the present observations demonstrate anomalous fatigue behavior in two regards: (1) quantitatively anomalous when considering the extremely high stress levels needed to drive fatigue failure and (2) mechanistically anomalous in light of the grain growth process that appears to be a necessary precursor to crack initiation.