Effect of electro-mechanical loading in metallic conductors



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The development of high powered electro-magnetic devices has generated interest in the effect of combined electromagnetic and mechanical loading of such structures. Materials used in high-current applications – aluminum alloys and copper – are subjected to heat pulses of short duration (in the range of a few hundred microseconds to a few milliseconds); immediately following or along with such heat pulses, these materials are also subjected to large mechanical forces. In previous work reported in the literature, ejection of material from the vicinity of preexisting defects such as cracks, notches or discontinuities have been observed resulting from short-duration high-intensity current pulses; after a series of pulses, permanent deformation and weakening of intact material has also been reported. But a lack of complete understanding of the effects of short duration current pulses hinders the assessment of the reliability of such conductors in high energy applications. Therefore, an investigation was undertaken to examine the behavior of electromagnetically and mechanically loaded conductors. This work investigates the effects of short-duration, high-current-density pulses in combination with viii mechanical loading. The aim is to develop a theoretical model to describe the resulting mechanical response. The model is to provide a characterization of the possible effects of thermally-induced plastic strains on metals loaded beyond or just below their yield strength or below the critical stress intensity factor. In the experiments reported here, two types of specimens, undamaged and damaged, were subjected to combined electromechanical loads. Undamaged specimens were used to observe thermally-induced plastic strains - strains not caused by an increase in mechanical loading, but rather resulting from the reduction of yield strength and post-yield stiffness due to the increase in temperature. The experiments were conducted such that it would be possible to develop a model that would conclusively account for the observed material behavior. The second sets of specimens were weakened a priori by the introduction of a crack in order to study the influence of such crack-like defects on the electrical and mechanical fields, and to produce a safe design envelope with respect to the loading conditions. Failure was found to occur due to melting triggered by joule heating; a quantitative criterion based on current concentration and heat accumulation near the crack tip has been developed based on these experimental results.