Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Materials Science and Engineering


J.D. Embury


D.D. Perovic


The occurrence of brittle intergranular fracture during sheet metal forming operations or during in-service use in low carbon steels is often termed cold work embrittlement (CWE). Interstitial-free steels are especially susceptible to brittle intergranular fracture, as there is little free carbon in solid solution left to segregate to the grain boundaries, where its presence is thought to intrinsically strengthen the grain boundaries and indirectly strengthen the grain boundaries by impeding the segregation of deleterious elements such as phosphorus and tin. These embrittled grain boundaries, coupled with an increased flow stress from cold working, result in intergranular fracture, especially after deep drawing, with cracks propagating in the drawing direction. The purpose of the present work was to identify the key microstructural parameters controlling cold work embrittlement. Tensile tests performed on well-characterized undeformed and predeformed IF steel sheet indicated that the grain shape was a key microstructural parameter. A strain path dependent fracture criterion was developed and used to predict the occurrence of cold work embrittlement for forming operations from the evolution of the resulting intergranular fracture surface and the yield surface with deformation. A series of experiments on deep drawn cups were used to test the key predictions of the model. The role of grain shape, amount of deep drawing, segregation levels, macroscopic residual stresses, strain rate, and surface condition were further clarified. Although a fracture path investigation indicated that low angle boundaries were resistant to fracture, the density of these boundaries were insufficient to affect the bulk macroscopic fracture properties. The potency and amount of segregant at the grain boundary controls the cohesive strength of the grain boundary. Quantitative analytical electron microscopy detected higher levels of phosphorus segregation for batch annealed steel as opposed to continuously annealed steel. The higher level of segregation resulted in a greater susceptibility to CWE especially for severe deep drawing. The process of phosphorus segregation during recrystallization annealing was modeled by accounting for the migrating grain boundary.

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