Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 259–274 | Cite as

Failures of Structures and Components by Metal-Induced Embrittlement

  • S. P. Lynch
Technical Article---Peer-Reviewed


The basic aspects of liquid–metal embrittlement (LME) and solid metal-induced embrittlement (SMIE) are concisely reviewed, followed by case histories of failures involving (i) LME of an aluminium-alloy pipe by mercury in a natural-gas plant, (ii) SMIE of a brass valve in an aircraft-engine oil-cooler by internal lead particles, (iii) LME of a cadmium-plated steel screw from a crashed helicopter, (iv) LME of a cold-formed steel stiffener during galvanizing, and (v) LME of a steel gear by a copper alloy from an overheated bearing. These case histories illustrate how failures by LME and SMIE can be diagnosed and distinguished from other failure modes. The underlying causes of the failures and how they might be prevented are also discussed. Several beneficial uses of LME in failure analysis are then outlined.


Liquid–metal embrittlement Solid–metal-induced embrittlement Failure-analysis Fractography Metallography Aluminium alloys Steels Copper alloys 



The author would like to thank (i) R. Coade, D. Coldham, and H. Moss for their major contributions and micrographs regarding the failure of the aluminium alloy inlet nozzle, (ii) G. Redmond and R. Byrnes for information and micrographs concerning the failure of the brass valve from an aircraft-engine oil-cooler, (iii) M. Broadhurst for information and samples regarding the collapse of the grain silo, and (iv) I. Wills for information and samples connected with the failure of the planetary gears.


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Copyright information

© ASM International 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Defence Science and Technology OrganisationMelbourneAustralia

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