Effect of cooling rate on the microstructure and mechanical properties of a low-carbon low-alloyed steel

Wang, H. and Cao, L. and Li, Y. and Schneider, M. and Detemple, E. and Eggeler, G.

Volume: 56 Pages: 11098-11113
DOI: 10.1007/s10853-021-05974-3
Published: 2021

Heavy plate steels with bainitic microstructures are widely used in industry due to their good combination of strength and toughness. However, obtaining optimal mechanical properties is often challenging due to the complex bainitic microstructures and multiple phase constitutions caused by different cooling rates through the plate thickness. Here, both conventional and advanced microstructural characterization techniques which bridge the meso- and atomic-scales were applied to investigate how microstructure/mechanical property-relationships of a low-carbon low-alloyed steel are affected by phase transformations during continuous cooling. Mechanical tests show that the yield strength increases monotonically when cooling rates increase up to 90 K/s. The present study shows that this is associated with a decrease in the volume fraction of polygonal ferrite (PF) and a refinement of the substructure of degenerated upper bainite (DUB). The fine DUB substructures feature C-rich retained austenite/martensite-austenite (RA/M-A) constitutes which decorate the elongated micrograin boundaries in ferrite. A further increase in strength is observed when needle-shaped cementite precipitates form during water quenching within elongated micrograins. Pure martensite islands on the elongated micrograin boundaries lead to a decreased ductility. The implications for thick section plate processing are discussed based on the findings of the present work. © 2021, The Author(s).

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