The multiphase microstructure of carbide-free bainitic steels comprises bainitic ferrite laths, retained austenite with different morphologies, a minor fraction of carbides and so-called martensite-austenite areas, which partially transform during the last cooling step. While the other constituent received much attention, little is known about the structure of the martensite-austenite constituent in carbide-free bainitic steels. Thus, in this study, it was structurally and chemically investigated by high-resolution techniques such as transmission electron microscopy and atom probe tomography after preceded unambiguous identification by electron backscatter diffraction in conventional as well as transmission mode. The results, ranging from carbon segregation to cementite precipitation in the martensitic part, indicate strong auto-tempering during final cooling which is followed by aging. Also, some kind of structural modulation in the austenite belonging to the martensite-austenite areas was observed. Atom probe tomography revealed a heterogeneous carbon distribution, further supporting the findings by transmission electron microscopy.
- Atom probe tomography
- Carbide-free bainite
- Martensite-austenite constituent
- Structural modulation
- Transmission electron microscopy