Dual-phase steel structure visualized by extremely slow electrons

Šárka Mikmeková, Katsumi Yamada, Hisato Noro
Microscopy 2015, 64 (6): 437-43
Mechanical properties of complex steels are affected by their multi-phase structure. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) is routinely used for characterizing dual-phase (DP) steels, although the identification of steel constituents is not straightforward. In fact, there are several ways of enabling the ferrite-martensite segmentation by SEM, and a wide range of electron energies can be utilized. This study demonstrates the phase identification of DP steels at high, low and extremely low landing energies of the primary electrons from tens of keV to tens of eV. Visualization of the specimen surface at very low landing energies has been achieved by inserting an earthed detector between the pole piece and the negatively biased specimen. This 'cathode lens mode' enables the use of the full energy range up to the primary electron energies. It has been found that extremely slow electrons (<100 eV) are exceptionally suitable for separation of the martensite from the ferrite matrix due to high surface sensitivity, enabling visualization of very fine features. Moreover, the channelling contrast is significantly suppressed at the landing energy of tens of eV of the primary electrons, which enables separation of the phases clearly even in the images acquired at low magnification. The contrast between the phases at tens of eV can be explained by the different thickness of native oxide covering the martensite and the ferrite phase.

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