Microstructural development during the quenching and partitioning process in a newly designed low-carbon steel

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    This paper presents a detailed characterization of the microstructural development of a new quenching and partitioning (Q&P) steel. Q&P treatments, starting from full austenitization, were applied to the developed steel, leading to microstructures containing volume fractions of retained austenite of up to 0.15. The austenite was distributed as films in between the martensite laths. Analysis demonstrates that, in this material, stabilization of austenite can be achieved at significantly shorter time scales via the Q&P route than is possible via a bainitic isothermal holding. The results showed that the thermal stabilization of austenite during the partitioning step is not necessarily accompanied by a significant expansion of the material. This implies that the process of carbon partitioning from martensite to austenite occurs across low-mobility martensite–austenite interfaces. The amount of martensite formed during the first quench has been quantified. Unlike martensite formed in the final quench, this martensite was found to be tempered during partitioning. Measured volume fractions of retained austenite after different treatments were compared with simulations using model descriptions for carbon partitioning from martensite to austenite. Simulation results confirmed that the carbon partitioning takes place at low-mobility martensite–austenite interfaces.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)6059-6068
    JournalActa Materialia
    Issue number15
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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