Dependence of hydrogen embrittlement mechanisms on microstructure-driven hydrogen distribution in medium Mn steels

Sun, B. and Krieger, W. and Rohwerder, M. and Ponge, D. and Raabe, D.

Volume: 183 Pages: 313-328
DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2019.11.029
Published: 2020

The risk of hydrogen embrittlement (HE) is currently one important factor impeding the use of medium Mn steels. However, knowledge about HE in these materials is sparse. Their multiphase microstructure with highly variable phase conditions (e.g. fraction, percolation and dislocation density) and the feature of deformation-driven phase transformation render systematic studies of HE mechanisms challenging. Here we investigate two austenite-ferrite medium Mn steel samples with very different phase characteristics. The first one has a ferritic matrix (~74 vol.% ferrite) with embedded austenite and a high dislocation density (~1014 m−2) in ferrite. The second one has a well recrystallized microstructure consisting of an austenitic matrix (~59 vol.% austenite) and embedded ferrite. We observe that the two types of microstructures show very different response to HE, due to fundamental differences between the HE micromechanisms acting in them. The influence of H in the first type of microstructure is explained by the H-enhanced local plastic flow in ferrite and the resulting increased strain incompatibility between ferrite and the adjacent phase mixture of austenite and strain-induced α'-martensite. In the second type of microstructure, the dominant role of H lies in its decohesion effect on phase and grain boundaries, due to the initially trapped H at the interfaces and subsequent H migration driven by deformation-induced austenite-to-martensite transformation. The fundamental change in the prevalent HE mechanisms between these two microstructures is related to the spatial distribution of H within them. This observation provides significant insights for future microstructural design towards higher HE resistance of high-strength steels. © 2019

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