Herein, the effect of Nb content on the phase transformation kinetics, microstructure, and mechanical properties of hot-rolled quenching and partitioning (Q&P) steel is investigated. The characteristics of three C–Mn–Si–Ti steels (0.18C, 2.0Si, 2.6Mn, and 0.015Ti) containing 0, 0.027, or 0.061 wt% Nb are compared. Results reveal that grain boundary pinning by precipitates and Nb solute drag effects refine the austenite grain size during the hot-rolling process; the microstructural refinement is carried over to the final microstructure subjected to the Q&P treatment. The remaining supersaturated Nb suppresses the bainite formation and decreases the final bainite fraction formed in the Q&P process. The microstructural evolution leads to an increase in the ultimate tensile strength (UTS) of the steel containing 0.027 wt% Nb from 1169 to 1228 MPa, while keeping the total elongation at 18%. When the Nb content is increased to 0.061 wt%, the UTS of the steel increases to 1313 MPa, but the elongation at break drops to 16%. The effect is due to the carbon consumption by the Nb precipitates, which causes a decrease in the stability of the retained austenite and reduces the strain hardening at high strain levels.
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- bainitic transformation
- Nb microalloying
- quenching and partitioning steel
- retained austenite
- strength and total elongation