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The purpose of fractography is to analyze fracture features and attempt to relate the topography of the fracture surface to the causes and/or basic mechanisms of fracture. This article reviews the historical development of fractography, from the early studies of fracture appearance dating back to the sixteenth century to the state-of-the-art work in electron fractography and quantitative fractography. It also describes the applications and limitations of scanning electron microscope and transmission electron microscope.

This article begins with a discussion of the basic fracture modes, including dimple ruptures, cleavages, fatigue fractures, and decohesive ruptures, and of the important mechanisms involved in the fracture process. It then describes the principal effects of the external environment that significantly affect the fracture propagation rate and fracture appearance. The external environment includes hydrogen, corrosive media, low-melting metals, state of stress, strain rate, and temperature. The mechanism of stress-corrosion cracking in metals such as steels, aluminum, brass, and titanium alloys, when exposed to a corrosive environment under stress, is also reviewed. The final section of the article describes and shows fractographs that illustrate the influence of metallurgical discontinuities such as laps, seams, cold shuts, porosity, inclusions, segregation, and unfavorable grain flow in forgings and how these discontinuities affect fracture initiation, propagation, and the features of fracture surfaces.

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