Spall are flakes of a material that are broken off a larger solid body and can be produced by a variety of mechanisms, including as a result of projectile
A projectile is any object projected into space by the exertion of a force. Although a thrown baseball is technically a projectile too, the term more commonly refers to a weapon....

 impact, corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

, weathering
Weathering is the breaking down of rocks, soils and minerals as well as artificial materials through contact with the Earth's atmosphere, biota and waters...

, cavitation
Cavitation is the formation and then immediate implosion of cavities in a liquidi.e. small liquid-free zones that are the consequence of forces acting upon the liquid...

, or excessive rolling pressure (as in a ball bearing). Spalling and spallation
In general, spallation is a process in which fragments of material are ejected from a body due to impact or stress. In the context of impact mechanics it describes ejection or vaporization of material from a target during impact by a projectile...

 both describe the process of surface failure in which spall is shed.

The terms spall and spalling have been adopted by particle physicists
Particle physics
Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the existence and interactions of particles that are the constituents of what is usually referred to as matter or radiation. In current understanding, particles are excitations of quantum fields and interact following their dynamics...

; in neutron scattering
Neutron scattering
Neutron scattering,the scattering of free neutrons by matter,is a physical processand an experimental technique using this processfor the investigation of materials.Neutron scattering as a physical process is of primordial importance...

 instruments, neutrons are generated by bombarding a uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 target with a stream of atoms. The neutrons that are ejected from the target are known as spall.

Mechanical spalling

Mechanical spalling occurs at high stress contact points, for example, in a ball bearing
Ball bearing
A ball bearing is a type of rolling-element bearing that uses balls to maintain the separation between the bearing races.The purpose of a ball bearing is to reduce rotational friction and support radial and axial loads. It achieves this by using at least two races to contain the balls and transmit...

. Spalling occurs in preference to brinelling
Brinelling is a material surface failure caused by contact stress that exceeds the material limit. This failure is caused by just one application of a load great enough to exceed the material limit. The result is a permanent dent or "brinell" mark. It is a common cause of roller bearing failures,...

 where the maximal shear stress occurs not at the surface, but just below, shearing the spall off.

One of the simplest forms of mechanical spalling is plate impact, in which two waves of compression are reflected on the free-surfaces of the plates and then interact to generate a region of high tension stress inside one of the plates.

Spalling can also occur as an effect of cavitation
Cavitation is the formation and then immediate implosion of cavities in a liquidi.e. small liquid-free zones that are the consequence of forces acting upon the liquid...

, where fluids are subjected to localized low pressures that cause vapor bubbles to form, typically in pumps, water turbines, vessel propellers, and even piping under some conditions. When such bubbles collapse, a localized high pressure can cause spalling on adjacent surfaces.

Antitank warfare

In anti-tank warfare
Anti-tank warfare
Anti-tank warfare was created by the need to seek technology and tactics to destroy tanks and their supporting infantry during the First World War...

, spalling through mechanical stress is an intended effect of high explosive squash head
High explosive squash head
High explosive squash head is a type of explosive ammunition that is effective against buildings and is also used against tank armour. It was fielded chiefly by the British Army as the main explosive round of its main battle tanks during the Cold War...

 (HESH) anti-tank shells
Shell (projectile)
A shell is a payload-carrying projectile, which, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage sometimes includes large solid projectiles properly termed shot . Solid shot may contain a pyrotechnic compound if a tracer or spotting charge is used...

 and many other munitions which may not be powerful enough to pierce the armor of a target. The relatively soft warhead, containing or made of plastic explosive, flattens against the armor plating on tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s and other armored fighting vehicle
Armoured fighting vehicle
An armoured fighting vehicle is a combat vehicle, protected by strong armour and armed with weapons. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked....

s (AFVs) and explodes, creating a shock wave
Shock wave
A shock wave is a type of propagating disturbance. Like an ordinary wave, it carries energy and can propagate through a medium or in some cases in the absence of a material medium, through a field such as the electromagnetic field...

 that travels through the armor as a compression wave and is reflected at the free surface as a tensile wave breaking (tensile stress/strain fracture) the metal on the inside. The resulting spall is dangerous to crew and equipment, and may result in a partial or complete disablement of a vehicle and/or its crew. Many AFVs are equipped with spall liners inside their armor
Vehicle armour
Military vehicles are commonly armoured to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missiles, or shells, protecting the personnel inside from enemy fire. Such vehicles include tanks, aircraft, and ships....

 for protection.

A kinetic energy penetrator
Kinetic energy penetrator
A kinetic energy penetrator is a type of ammunition which, like a bullet, does not contain explosives and uses kinetic energy to penetrate the target....

, if it can defeat the armor, generally causes spalling within the target as well, which helps to destroy/disable the vehicle and/or its crew.

Spalling in mechanical weathering

Spalling is a common mechanism of rock weathering, and occurs at the surface of a rock when there are large shear stresses under the surface. This form of mechanical weathering can be caused by freezing and thawing, unloading, thermal expansion and contraction or salt deposition.

Freeze thaw weathering is caused by moisture freezing inside cracks in rock. Upon freezing its volume expands, causing large forces which cracks spall off the outer surface. As this cycle repeats the outer surface repeatedly undergoes spalling, resulting in weathering.

Some stone and masonry surfaces used as building surfaces will absorb moisture at their surface. If exposed to severe freezing conditions the surface may flake off due to the expansion of the water. This effect can also be seen in terra-cotta surfaces (even if glazed) if there is an entrance for water at the edges.

Unloading is the release of pressure due to the removal of an overburden. When the pressure is reduced rapidly, the rapid expansion of the rock causes high surface stress and spalling.


Exfoliation (geology)
Exfoliation joints or sheet joints are surface-parallel fracture systems in rock often leading to erosion of concentric slabs.- General characteristics of exfoliation joints :* Commonly follow topography ....

 (or onion skin weathering) is the gradual removing of spall due to the cyclic increase and decrease in the temperature of the surface layers of the rock. Rocks do not conduct heat well, so when they are exposed to extreme heat the outer most layer becomes much hotter than the rock underneath causing different thermal expansion
Thermal expansion
Thermal expansion is the tendency of matter to change in volume in response to a change in temperature.When a substance is heated, its particles begin moving more and thus usually maintain a greater average separation. Materials which contract with increasing temperature are rare; this effect is...

. This differential expansion causes sub-surface shear stress, in turn causing spalling. Extreme temperature change, such as forest fires, can also cause spalling of rock. This mechanism of weathering causes the outer surface of the rock to fall off in thin fragments, sheets or flakes, hence the name exfoliation or onion skin weathering.

Salt spalling

Salt spalling is a specific type of weathering which occurs in porous building materials, such as brick, natural stone, tiles and concrete. Dissolved salt is carried through the material in water and crystallises inside the material near the surface as the water evaporates. As the salt crystals expand this builds up shear stresses which break away spall from the surface.

Some believe that porous building materials can be protected against salt spalling by treatment with penetrating sealants which are hydrophobic (water repellent) and will penetrate deeply enough to keep water with dissolved salts well away from the surface. Great care and expert advice must be taken, though, to ensure that any coating is compatible with the substrate in terms of breathability (ability to allow the release of vapors from inside while preventing water intrusion), or other serious problems can be created.

It must always be assumed that water—possibly even arriving in vapor form from the interior—will collect behind the wall surface, and it must be allowed to both drain and evaporate. Many bricks and stones have been damaged beyond repair by the well-intentioned application of the wrong coating, once the coated masonry has passed through a few freeze-thaw cycles, pipe leaks, etc.


In corrosion, spalling occurs when a substance (metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

 or concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

) sheds tiny particles of corrosion products as the corrosion reaction progresses. These corrosion products are not soluble or permeable, but, unlike passivation
Passivation is the process of making a material "passive", and thus less reactive with surrounding air, water, or other gases or liquids. The goal is to inhibit corrosion, whether for structural or cosmetic reasons. Passivation of metals is usually achieved by the deposition of a layer of oxide...

, they do not adhere to the parent material's surface to form a barrier to further corrosion. This happens as the result of a large volume change during the reaction.

In the case of actinide
The actinide or actinoid series encompasses the 15 metallic chemical elements with atomic numbers from 89 to 103, actinium through lawrencium.The actinide series derives its name from the group 3 element actinium...

 metals (most notably the depleted uranium
Depleted uranium
Depleted uranium is uranium with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium . Uses of DU take advantage of its very high density of 19.1 g/cm3...

 used in some types of ammunition
Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war , but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery. The collective term for all types of ammunition is munitions...

), the material expands so strongly upon exposure to air that a fine layer of oxide is forcibly expelled from the surface. A slowly oxidised plug of metallic uranium can sometimes resemble an onion
The onion , also known as the bulb onion, common onion and garden onion, is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion The onion...

 subjected to desquamation
Desquamation , also called skin peeling, is the shedding of the outermost membrane or layer of a tissue, such as the skin.-Skin:Normal, nonpathologic desquamation of the skin occurs when keratinocytes, after moving apically over about 14 days, are individually shed unnoticeably...

. The main hazard however arises from the pyrophoric character of actinide metals which can spontaneously ignite when their specific area is high. This property, along with these elements inherent toxicity
Heavy metals
A heavy metal is a member of a loosely-defined subset of elements that exhibit metallic properties. It mainly includes the transition metals, some metalloids, lanthanides, and actinides. Many different definitions have been proposed—some based on density, some on atomic number or atomic weight,...

 and (for some to a lesser extent) radioactivity, make them dangerous to handle in metallic form under air. Therefore, they are often handled under an inert atmosphere (nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 or argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

) inside an anaerobic glovebox
A glovebox is a sealed container that is designed to allow one to manipulate objects where a separate atmosphere is desired. Built into the sides of the glovebox are gloves arranged in such a way that the user can place their hands into the gloves and perform tasks inside the box without breaking...

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