Austenite stabilization from direct cementite conversion in low-alloy steels
AuthorHaidemenopoulos, G. N.
Transformation induced elasticity (TRIP) effects associated with austenite dispersions in low alloy Fe-Mn-Si steels can be enhanced by austenite stabilisation. Austenite which forms during conventional intercritical annealing does not possess the required stability in order to exhibit TRIP effects. In this work, thermodynamic calculations indicated that it is feasible to form austenite by a cementite to austenite conversion which occurs under paraequilibrium conditions, i.e with partition of carbon but with no partition of substitutional alloying elements. In this way the austenite inherits the manganese content of cementite and is chemically stabilised. A treatment consisting of a two-step annealing has been examined. In the first step, soft annealing, an Mn-enriched cementite dispersion in ferrite is formed. In the second step, intercritical annealing, austenite nucleates on the cementite particles, which are consumed to form austenite. It was experimentally determined that this austenite has been enriched in manganese and carbon and, therefore, is stabilised. The conversion reaction is followed by the conventional austenite nucleation at ferrite grain boundaries. This austenite is lean in manganese and is not stable. The net effect of the two-step annealing treatment is a significant austenite stabilisation relative to simple intercritical annealing, indicating a potential for enhanced TRIP effects in this class of steels.