Uncovering the white etching area and crack formation mechanism in bearing steel

Ksenija Nikolic*, Vitoria Mattos Ferreira, Loïc Malet, Tom Depover, Kim Verbeken, Roumen H. Petrov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


The microstructure of a damaged bearing from the field was characterized in this work with the intention to better understand microstructural features behind formation of White Etching Cracks (WEC) in bearings. Microstructural characterization of the altered white etching area (WEA) involved conventional electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD), followed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and transmission Kikuchi diffraction (TKD). In addition, automated crystallographic orientation mapping in TEM was performed on lamellae from selected regions of the WEA extracted via focus ion beam milling. The results revealed that the orientation of detectable grains within WEA is similar to that of the vicinal bulk material. WEA consists of small spherical grains (average 30 nm) and the orientation of the grains varied significantly in the deformed zone, suggesting that recrystallization had occurred. The interface between bulk material and the deformed zone is very sharp. Furthermore, needle-like grains, most likely originating from the zone undergoing only modest levels of severe plastic deformation, occurred in WEA. The occurrence of different grain sizes in WEA and incomplete plastic deformation strongly support the hypothesis of WEC formation via severe plastic deformation followed by recrystallization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112659
Number of pages9
JournalMaterials Characterization
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Bearing steel
  • EBSD
  • FIB
  • Rolling contact fatigue
  • TEM
  • White etching area
  • White etching cracks


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