JOURNAL ARTICLE

Carbide characterization in low-temperature tempered steels

Chen Zhu, Alfred Cerezo, George D W Smith
Ultramicroscopy 2009, 109 (5): 545-52
19201098
The nature of the initial carbides formed during the early stages of the tempering of steels is still a matter of debate. Conventionally, the main transition carbide is described as epsilon carbide, with a composition of approximately Fe(2.4)C. However, earlier one-dimensional atom probe (1DAP) results indicated the existence of carbon-rich regions having much lower carbon contents, with maxima of around 10at%. There was some uncertainty about the interpretation of the 1DAP results, because of possible problems with alignment of the aperture and with trajectory aberration effects. We have therefore re-visited this topic, using the three-dimensional (3D) atom probe, and studying both a model Fe-Ni-C alloy and a well-known engineering steel (AISI4340). We demonstrate that, for both materials, low-temperature (20-150 degrees C) aging produces carbon-rich regions with average peak carbon contents of up to 10%. We show for the first time the three-dimensional structure of these carbon-rich regions, and demonstrate that fine-scale faulting exists within them.

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