Nanoscale analyses of high-nickel concentration martensitic high-strength steels

Dieter Isheim*, Allen H. Hunter, Xian J. Zhang, David N. Seidman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Austenite reversion in martensitic steels is known to improve fracture toughness. This research focuses on characterizing mechanical properties and the microstructure of low-carbon, high-nickel steels containing 4.5 and 10 wt pct Ni after a QLT-type austenite reversion heat treatment: first, martensite is formed by quenching (Q) from a temperature in the single-phase austenite field, then austenite is precipitated by annealing in the upper part of the intercritical region in a lamellarization step (L), followed by a tempering (T) step at lower temperatures. For the 10 wt pct Ni steel, the tensile strength after the QLT heat treatment is 910 MPa (132 ksi) at 293 K (20 °C), and the Charpy V-notch impact toughness is 144 J (106 ft-lb) at 188.8 K (- 84.4 °C, - 120 °F). For the 4.5 wt pct Ni steel, the tensile strength is 731 MPa (106 ksi) at 293 K (20 °C) and the impact toughness is 209 J (154 ft-lb) at 188.8 K (- 84.4 °C, - 120 °F). Light optical microscopy, scanning electron and transmission electron microscopies, synchrotron X-ray diffraction, and local-electrode atom-probe tomography (APT) are utilized to determine the morphologies, volume fractions, and local chemical compositions of the precipitated phases with sub-nanometer spatial resolution. The austenite lamellae are up to 200 nm in thickness, and up to several micrometers in length. In addition to the expected partitioning of Ni to austenite, APT reveals a substantial segregation of Ni at the austenite/martensite interface with concentration maxima of 10 and 23 wt pct Ni for the austenite lamellae in the 4.5 and 10 wt pct Ni steels, respectively. Copper-rich and M2C-type metal carbide precipitates were detected both at the austenite/martensite interface and within the bulk of the austenite lamellae. Thermodynamic phase stability, equilibrium compositions, and volume fractions are discussed in the context of Thermo-Calc calculations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3046-3059
Number of pages14
JournalMetallurgical and Materials Transactions A: Physical Metallurgy and Materials Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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