The Effect of a High-Temperature High-Pressure Nitrogen Environment with Carbonaceous Impurities on the Performance of Three Austenitic Alloys
Thesis DisciplineMechanical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering
WhisperGenTM heater head components are currently machined from the austenitic stainless steel Sandvik 253MA. The inner surface of the heater heads is subjected to the working gas of the engine, which is a high-pressure, high-temperature nitrogen-based environment with carbonaceous impurities. As a result of this exposure, a scale forms during operation and eventually spalls. This spalled scale causes abrasive damage to piston seals and guides, which leads to pressure loss and eventual failure of the engine. The aim of the present work was to compare the performance of the austenitic alloy 253MA with two alternative alloys, Incoloy 800H and AISI 310, thereby enabling a material recommendation. A literature review provided information about many general aspects of high temperature corrosion in similar alloys. However, little was found about the application of these alloys in environments similar to those experienced by a WhisperGenTM heater head. Therefore, laboratory experiments were conducted to indicate the relative performance characteristics of the three potential alloys (253MA, Incoloy 800H and AISI 310). To overcome the difficulties with testing at high temperatures and pressures, Thermo-Calc™ was used to calculate gas mixtures at 1 bar that approximated the chemical potentials of carbon and nitrogen in the working gas at 24 bar. Comparisons of the different materials were made via weight loss/gain measurements and metallographic analysis, which included optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, X-ray mapping and electron back scatter diffraction (EBSD). The laboratory test sample results were also compared with results from heater heads of the same materials that were run in an actual WhisperGenTM engine. The experimental results taken in total indicate that 253MA is the least suitable alloy for the heater head application because it exhibited poor spalling performance, internal oxidation and formation of a large amount of Cr23C6. AISI 310 was shown in all cases to develop the detrimental sigma phase, although this alloy was the least susceptible to internal oxidation. Incoloy 800H was the most resistant alloy to all forms of degradation and is thus recommended for the heater head application.