Experimental study of phase separation in Fe-Cr based alloys
Abstract: Duplex stainless steels (DSSs) are important engineering materials due to their combination of good mechanical properties and corrosion resistance. However, as a consequence of their ferrite content, DSSs are sensitive to the so-called ‘475°C embrittlement’, which is induced by phase separation, namely, the ferrite decomposed into Fe-rich ferrite (?) and Cr-rich ferrite (?'), respectively. The phase separation is accompanied with a severe loss of toughness. Thus, the ‘475°C embrittlement’ phenomenon limits DSSs’ upper service temperature to around 250°C.In the present work, Fe-Cr binary model alloys and commercial DSSs from weldments were investigated for the study of phase separation in ferrite. Different techniques were employed to study the phase separation in model alloys and commercial DSSs, including atom probe tomography, transmission electron microscopy and micro-hardness test.Three different model alloys, Fe-25Cr, Fe-30Cr and Fe-35Cr (wt. %) were analyzed by atom probe tomography after different aging times. A new method based on radial distribution function was developed to evaluate the wavelength and amplitude of phase separation in these Fe-Cr binary alloys. The results were compared with the wavelengths obtained from 1D auto-correlation function and amplitudes from Langer-Bar-On-Miller method. It was found that the wavelengths from 1D auto-correlation function cannot reflect the 3D nano-scaled structures as accurate as those obtained by radial distribution function. Furthermore, the Langer-Bar-On-Miller method underestimates the amplitudes of phase separation.Commercial DSSs of SAF2205, 2304, 2507 and 25.10.4L were employed to investigate the connections between phase separation and mechanical properties from different microstructures (base metal, heat-affected-zone and welding bead) in welding. Moreover, the effect of external tensile stress during aging on phase separation of ferrite was also investigated. It was found that atom probe tomography is very useful for the analysis of phase separation in ferrite and the radial distribution function (RDF) is an effective method to compare the extent of phase separation at the very early stages. RDF is even more sensitive than frequency diagrams. In addition, the results indicate that the mechanical properties are highly connected with the phase separation in ferrite and other phenomena, such as Ni-Mn-Si-Cu clusters, that can also deteriorate the mechanical properties.
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