A 22 m (72 ft) diameter filled grain storage bin made from a 0.2% carbon steel collapsed at a temperature of −1 to 4 deg C (30 to 40 deg F). Failure analysis indicated that fracture occurred in a two-step process: first downward, by ductile failure of small ligament from a bolt hole near the bottom of the tank to create a crack 25 mm (1 in.) long, and then upward, by brittle fracture through successive 1.2 m (4ft) wide sheets of ASTM A446 material. Site investigation showed that the concrete base pad was not level. Chemical analysis indicated that the material had a high nitrogen content (0.020%). The allowable stress based on yield was estimated using four different design criteria. Correlation among those results was poor. The different criteria indicated that the material was loaded from the maximum allowable to approximately 30% less than allowable. Nevertheless, at this stress level, fracture mechanics indicated that the 25 mm (1 in.) starter crack exceeded or was very near the critical crack length for the material. Additional factors not taken into account in the design equations included cold work from a hole punching operation, thread imprinting in bolt holes, and an additional hoop stress created by forcing an incorrectly formed panel to fit the pad base radius. These factors increased the nominal design stress to a sufficiently large value to cause the critical crack length to be exceeded.
William T. Becker, Brittle Fracture in a Large Grain Storage Bin, Handbook of Case Histories in Failure Analysis, Vol 2, Edited By Khlefa A. Esaklul, ASM International, 1993, p 470–477, https://doi.org/10.31399/asm.fach.v02.c9001272
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