Advanced Bainitic and Martensitic Steels with Carbide-Free Microstructures Containing Retained Austenite
Recent decades have witnessed some remarkable advances in engineering steels driven by the need to respond to challenges posed, for example, by recovery and transmission of oil and gas, or enhanced vehicle safety and fuel economy. Foremost amongst these must surely be the extended application of carbon steels, achieved principally through ferrite grain refinement by the practice of microalloying coupled with controlled thermomechanical processing. Limitations to strengthening ferrite/pearlite structures further by grain refinement or precipitation, however, has focused attention back to acicular forms of microstructure. One of the most interesting advances in this area has been the development of bainitic steels, which have been almost dormant since the mid-20th century. This resurgence may partly be attributed to a better appreciation of the bainite transformation mechanism, and the experimental work for this which unexpectedly spawned some interesting bainitic microstructures which have seen further development and application. These are the so-called ‘carbide-free’ bainites, which employ alloying to replace carbides, principally cementite, with carbon-stabilized retained austenite. Particularly noteworthy has been the emergence of the transformation induced plasticity (TRIP) sheet steels with enhanced properties principally targeted for automotive use. It is worth mentioning also that a parallel development has produced similar microstructure in austempered ductile irons (ADI), another important ferrous alloy which has seen recent expanding interest in its application. Even more recently, as we proceed into the 21st century, the concept of employing steel microstructures containing carbon-enriched retained austenite, has been developed further by combining both alloying and novel heat treatment procedures to exchange ‘bainitic’ ferrite with ‘martensitic’ ferrite. Interestingly, this non-equilibrium ‘quenching and partitioning’ process route also offers the possibility to increase the retained austenite carbon concentration to very high levels, potentially revealing new and previously unobtainable properties.
T. Chandra, N. Wanderka, W. Reimers , M. Ionescu
D.V. Edmonds "Advanced Bainitic and Martensitic Steels with Carbide-Free Microstructures Containing Retained Austenite", Materials Science Forum, Vols. 638-642, pp. 110-117, 2010