An atom probe study of kappa carbide precipitation and the effect of silicon addition

Laura N. Bartlett*, David C. Van Aken, Julia Medvedeva, Dieter Isheim, Nadezhda I. Medvedeva, Kai Song

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


The influence of silicon on κ-carbide precipitation in lightweight austenitic Fe-30Mn-9Al-(0.59-1.56)Si-0.9C-0.5Mo cast steels was investigated utilizing transmission electron microscopy, 3D atom-probe tomography, X-ray diffraction, ab initio calculations, and thermodynamic modeling. Increasing the amount of silicon from 0.59 to 1.56 pct Si accelerated formation of the κ-carbide precipitates but did not increase the volume fraction. Silicon was shown to increase the activity of carbon in austenite and stabilize the κ-carbide at higher temperatures. Increasing the silicon from 0.59 to 1.56 pct increased the partitioning coefficient of carbon from 2.1 to 2.9 for steels aged 60 hours at 803 K (530 °C). The increase in strength during aging of Fe-Mn-Al-C steels was found to be a direct function of the increase in the concentration amplitude of carbon during spinodal decomposition. The predicted increase in the yield strength, as determined using a spinodal hardening mechanism, was calculated to be 120 MPa/wt pct Si for specimens aged at 803 K (530 °C) for 60 hours and this is in agreement with experimental results. Silicon was shown to partition to the austenite during aging and to slightly reduce the austenite lattice parameter. First-principles calculations show that the Si-C interaction is repulsive and this is the reason for enhanced carbon activity in austenite. The lattice parameter and thermodynamic stability of κ-carbide depend on the carbon stoichiometry and on which sublattice the silicon substitutes. Silicon was shown to favor vacancy ordering in κ-carbide due to a strong attractive Si-vacancy interaction. It was predicted that Si occupies the Fe sites in nonstoichiometric κ-carbide and the formation of Si-vacancy complexes increases the stability as well as the lattice parameter of κ-carbide. A comparison of how Si affects the enthalpy of formation for austenite and κ-carbide shows that the most energetically favorable position for silicon is in austenite, in agreement with the experimentally measured partitioning ratios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2421-2435
Number of pages15
JournalMetallurgical and Materials Transactions A: Physical Metallurgy and Materials Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Metals and Alloys


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