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Analysis of Molecular and Morphological Effects on Slow Crack Growth in Modern PE Pipe Grades by Cyclic Fracture Mechanics Tests



Summary: Three different polyethylene (PE) pipe grades as well as three different lots of one of the grades were investigated by cyclic tests with cracked round bar (CRB) specimens, concerning resistance to slow crack growth. To enhance the test sensibility and proof its applicability for a quick quality assurance method various molecular and morphological characterizations on compression molded plates were carried out, with special attention on the influence of molecular and morphological differences, as well as lot to lot variations on the resistance to slow crack growth. The cyclic CRB tests allowed a ranking of the different pipe grades and lots with short testing times per material and testing machine, as a function of failure time as well as of crack initiation time with further reduction of testing time of about 50%. Moreover the ranking corresponded to the expectations based on the molecular and morphological properties of the materials, where only minor changes in the molecular mass distribution and the co-monomer concentration in case of lot to lot variations were proofed reliably.