Unified Constitutive Equations for Creep and Plasticity

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Constitutive equations refer to 'the equations that constitute the material response' at any point within an object. They are one of the ingredients necessary to predict the deformation and fracture response of solid bodies (among other ingredients such as the equations of equilibrium and compatibility and mathematical descriptions of the configuration and loading history). These ingredients are generally combined together in complicated computer programs, such as finite- element analyses, which serve to both codify the pertinent knowledge and to provide convenient tools for making predictions of peak stresses, plastic strain ranges, crack growth rates, and other quantities of interest. Such predictions fall largely into two classes: structural analysis and manufacturing analysis. In the first category, the usual purpose is life prediction, for assessment of safety, reliability, durability, and/or operational strategies. Some high-technology systems limited by mechanical behavior, and therefore requiring accurate life assess- ments, include rocket engines (the space-shuttle main engine being a prominent example), piping and pressure vessels in nuclear and non-nuclear power plants (for example, heat exchanger tubes in solar central receivers and reformer tubes in high-temperature gas-cooled reactors used for process heat applications), and the ubiquitous example of the jet engine turbine blade. In structural analysis, one is sometimes concerned with predicting distortion per se, but more often, one is concerned with predicting fracture; in these cases the informa- tion about deformation is an intermediate result en route to the final goal of a life prediction.