A novel technique for evaluating the degradation of engine components non-destructively
Impedance spectroscopy (IS) was used to evaluate the microstructural changes of a thermally-grown oxide (TGO) layer on a nickel-based superalloy or bond coat, with or without a thermal barrier coating (TBC) system, at various temperatures. TBC is used for hot section parts of gas turbine engine, such as turbine blades and vanes. However, spallation of TBC can take place due to long-term operation at high temperature. The spallation is mainly caused by both microstructural changes and thermal stresses as a result of oxide layer (mainly alumina) formation and growth at the interface between the TBC and bond coat. The electrical resistance and capacitance of the oxide layer, formed from oxidation of IN738LC superalloy at high temperature, were obtained from fitting the results of the measured impedance diagrams based on an equivalent circuit model. The equivalent circuit model should represent the features of the oxide layer or the TBC system. The electrical resistance of the oxide layer increased with increasing oxidation time for samples exposed to air at 900°C. Similar results were obtained for the NiCrCoAIY bond coat samples and the TBC systems. The capacitance decreased with increasing thickness of the alumina layer. The activation energy of electrical conduction was used to characterise the alumina layer formed on the bond coat at 900°C, 1000°C and 1100°C. The activation energy values for the alumina layer, formed at various temperatures, decrease with increasing impurity or porosity. Changes in the electrical properties of TGOs are correlated with those in their microstructure and microchemistry. The degradation of a TBC can be identified, when the electrical resistance of the TGO decreases with increasing oxidation time. The fast decrease in resistivity corresponds to the compositional change in the TGO from cc-Al2O3 to a mixture of a-Cr2O3 and (Ni or Co)(Cr or Al)2O4 spinel. The disappearance of a-A1203 in the TGO makes the scale non-protective and leads to cracks and spallation of TBCs. Non-destructive testing of the crack formation in a TBC system is essential for predicting the failure and lifetime of TBCs in service. IS was used to evaluate the crack formation in the TBC system due to thermal cycling. During the thermal cycling, cracks initiated and propagated along the interface between the TGO and the yttrium stabilised zirconia (YSZ), used as a TBC. This caused the spallation of the TBC eventually. The propagation of cracks at the interface of TGO/YSZ was found to contribute to an increase in the interfacial impedance. The interfacial area determines the interfacial resistance corresponding to the oxygen reaction. Therefore, the crack propagation induced an increase of the interfacial resistance, whereas the interfacial capacitance showed no trend in its alteration with the propagation of the cracks. As a result, the relaxation frequency of the interface moved towards a lower frequency during the propagation of the cracks. Therefore, impedance spectroscopy has been used to examine the crack formation in TBC system non-destructively. By using scanning electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction techniques, the composition and microstructure of the oxide scales were examined. It was found that their electrical properties were determined, not only by the microstructure of the oxide scales, but also by the composition of the oxide scales. By determining the relationship between the electrical properties, microstructure and composition of the oxide scales, IS could be used as a non-destructive technique for monitoring the oxidation of metallic alloys at high temperature in gas turbine engine components.