Publications

Carbon and strain partitioning in a quenched and partitioned steel containing ferrite

Tan, X. and Ponge, D. and Lu, W. and Xu, Y. and Yang, X. and Rao, X. and Wu, D. and Raabe, D.

ACTA MATERIALIA
Volume: 165 Pages: 561-576
DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2018.12.019
Published: 2019

Abstract
We applied a hot rolling direct quenching and partitioning (HDQ&P) process to a low-C low-Si Al-added steel and obtained a Q&P steel containing 40 vol % of ferrite. Microstructure characterization was performed by means of SEM, EBSD, TEM and XRD. Atomic-scale characterization of carbon partitioning among the phases was carried out by atom probe tomography (APT). The carbon distribution in the retained austenite and near the martensite/retained austenite interfaces was quantitatively analyzed to study its partitioning behavior. The macroscopic strain distribution evolution across the tensile sample surface was investigated using macro digital image correlation (DIC) analysis. Combining these results with joint micro-DIC and EBSD analysis during quasi in-situ tensile testing, we investigated the strain partitioning among the different phases and the TRIP effect. Coupling of these results enabled us to reveal the relation among carbon partitioning, strain partitioning and the TRIP effect. The large blocky retained austenite with a side length of about 300–600 nm located near the ferrite/martensite (F/M) interfaces has low stability and transforms to martensite during the early deformation stages, i.e. at average strain below 21%. The retained austenite films in the centers of the martensite regions are more stable. The carbon distribution in both, the martensite and the retained austenite are inhomogeneous, with 0.5–2.0 at. % in the martensite and 4.0–7.5 at. % in the retained austenite. Strong carbon concentration gradients of up to 1.1 at. %/nm were observed near the martensite/retained austenite interfaces. The large blocky retained austenite (300–600 nm in side length) near the F/M interfaces has 1.5–2.0 at. % lower carbon content than that in the narrow retained austenite films (20–150 nm in thickness). The ferrite is soft and deforms prior to the martensite. The strain distribution in ferrite and martensite is inhomogeneous, varying by up to 20% within the same phase at an average strain of about 20%. Ferrite deformation is the main origin of ductility of the material. The balance between ferrite fraction and martensite morphology controls the TRIP effect and its efficiency in reaching a suited combination of strength and ductility. Reducing the ferrite volume fraction and softening the martensite by coarsening and polygonization can enhance the strain carried by the martensite, thus promoting more retained austenite in the martensite regions enabling a TRIP effect. The enhancement of the TRIP effect and the decrease of the strain contrast between ferrite and martensite jointly optimize the micromechanical deformation compatibility of the adjacent phases, thus improving the material's ductility. © 2018 Acta Materialia Inc.

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