Failure Analysis of Brass Tubes
Admiralty brass (Alloy C44300) cooling tubes which were part of a heat exchanger in a turbogenerator that provided electricity to a manufacturing plant failed. A mixture of non-recirculating city and “spring pit” water flowed through bundles of tubes to cool the oil in which they are immersed. However, a problem developed when several of the brass tubes cracked transversely, allowing cooling water to mix with the oil. The presence of a tensile stress, intergranular cracks, and a corrosion product suggested the tube failures resulted from stress-corrosion cracking. The main corrosion product was cupric hydroxychloride. In addition to switching to a more corrosion-resistant alloy, extreme care should be taken in the manufacturing of the replacement tube bundles to avoid imparting any residual tensile stresses in the tubing. Analyses of city and spring-pit water were recommended also, to determine which contained the least-harmful corrosive chemicals.