Premature Failure of a Turbine Blade by Thermal Fatigue Fracture
During disassembly of an engine that was to be modified, a fractured turbine blade was found. When the fracture was examined at low magnification, it was observed that a fatigue fracture had originated on the concave side of the leading edge and had progressed slightly more than halfway from the leading edge to the trailing edge on the concave surface before ultimate failure occurred in dynamic tension. Analysis (including visual inspection, SEM, and 250x/500x micrographic examination) supported the conclusions that the blades failed due to thermal fatigue. Recommendations included application of a protective coating to the blades, provided the coating was sufficiently ductile to avoid cracking during operation to prevent surface oxidation. Such a coating would also alleviate thermal differentials, provided the thermal conductivity of the coating exceeded that of the base metal. It was also determined that directionally solidified blades could minimize thermal fatigue cracking by eliminating intersection of grain boundaries with the surface. However, this improvement would be more costly than applying a protective coating.