The behavior of S420 steel under cathodic polarization in low pH aqueous environment is analyzed following the assumptions of the Theory of Critical Distances. This methodology has been successfully applied in fracture and fatigue analysis, but it has not been employed yet under stress corrosion cracking or hydrogen embrittlement conditions. This work focuses on the problem of environmentally assisted cracking by using the Point Method and the Line Method, both of them belonging to the Theory of Critical Distances. Fracture mechanic tests were carried out, using a slow strain rate machine, at two different solicitation rates (6·10−8 m/s and 6·10−9 m/s). The study is based on an experimental program composed of C(T) specimens with notch radii varying from 0 mm up to 2 mm. Cathodic polarization with a 5 mA/cm2 current has been employed and the aqueous aggressive environment was made using the Pressouyre’s method. The study has been completed with finite elements simulation analysis. The results reveal that the Theory of Critical Distances provides accurate predictions of the environmentally assisted cracking behavior of S420 steel in notched conditions.

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