Stress Relaxation Cracking of Alloys at Temperatures Higher Than 540 degrees C

Timothy Pickle, Yu Hong, Chad Augustine, Judith Vidal, Zhenzhen Yu

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Type 347H stainless steel (347H SS), used in commercial concentrating solar power (CSP) thermal energy storage to store solar-salt at a temperature of 565 C, has been reported in the literature to be susceptible to stress-relaxation cracking (SRC). The welded heat-affected zone (HAZ) and fusion zone (FZ) of 347H SS, particularly in thick sections, are known to be susceptible to failure during post-weld heat treatment (reheat cracking). SRC could also occur after months or years under an elevated-temperature service environment. Two conditions must be present for failure to occur in the HAZ and/or FZ: 1) a modified or sensitized microstructure and 2) sufficiently high tensile residual stresses present at the elevated service temperature. The overarching goal of this project is to recommend SRC mitigation protocols to avoid susceptibility to fail through SRC at temperatures relevant for CSP. Post weld heat treatment conditions and alternative alloys are investigated as potential mitigation solutions to SRC. We used Gleeble thermomechanical simulation tests and finite element (FE) models to understand the susceptibility of 347H SS to SRC as a function of temperature, stress, and microstructure. We started with a literature review of weldability issues with 347H SS and techniques to mitigate SRC in 347H SS weldments. Next, we used Gleeble experiments to determine reheat cracking susceptibility in the simulated HAZ of 347SS weldments and an alternative alloy, 316L SS (NUCL 167 SPH) with boron added. We also performed Gleeble experiments to compare the reheat cracking susceptibility of 347H cross welded with two different fillers: E347, which is used in some commercial CSP TES tanks, and E16.8.2. We validated the experimental results with FE models of the residual stresses. We found that although the 316L (NUCL 167 SPH) is less susceptible to reheat cracking, it is slightly weaker than 347H and ASME BP&V codes limit its use to a service condition of 565 C. We also found that welds using E16.8.2 as the weld filler are less susceptible to failure than those using E347, likely due to the higher creep ductility of E16.8.2, and that it may be used as an alternative filler for repair welding of 347H welds or as the primary choice of filler for newly developed weld joints. We also found that post weld heat treatment could be a viable solution for mitigating stress in E347-347H SS thick, constrained welds, like those found in CSP tanks, and propose several options for mitigating SRC in existing and future TES tanks.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages140
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5700-80404


  • 347H
  • CSP
  • solar salt
  • SRC
  • stress relaxation cracking
  • tank failure
  • TES
  • thermal energy storage


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