National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Date of this Version



JOM: The Journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 29–35


U.S. Government Work


While interfacial sulfur is the primary chemical factor affecting Al2O3 scale adhesion, moisture-induced delayed spallation appears as a secondary, but impressive, mechanistic detail. Similarities with bulk metallic phenomena suggest that hydrogen embrittlement from ambient humidity, resulting from the reaction Alalloy +3(H2O)air = Al(OH)–3 +3H+ may be the operative mechanism. This proposal was tested on pre-oxidized René N5 by standard cathodic hydrogen charging in 1N H2SO4, as monitored by weight change, induced current, and microstructure. Cathodic polarization at –2.0 V abruptly stripped mature Al2O3 scales at the oxide-metal interface. Anodic polarization at +2.0 V, however, produced alloy dissolution. Finally, with no applied voltage, the acid electrolyte produced neither scale spallation nor alloy dissolution. Thus, hydrogen charging was detrimental to alumina scale adhesion. Moisture-induced interfacial hydrogen embrittlement is concluded to be the cause of delayed scale spallation and desktop thermal barrier coating failures.