Recent research results indicated that eddy current conductivity measurements might be exploited for nondestructive evaluation of subsurface residual stresses in surface-treated nickel-base superalloy components. This paper presents new results that indicate that in some popular nickel-base superalloys the relationship between the electric conductivity profile and the sought residual stress profile is more tenuous than previously thought. It is shown that in IN718 the relationship is very sensitive to the state of precipitation hardening and, if left uncorrected, could render the eddy current technique unsuitable for residual stress profiling in components of 36 HRC or harder, i.e., in most critical engine applications. The presented experimental results show that the observed dramatic change in the eddy current response of hardened IN718 to surface treatment is caused by very fine nanometer-scale features of the microstructure, such as γ' and γ" precipitates, rather than micrometer-scale features, such as changing grain size or carbide precipitates.
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