Nano-bainitic steels: acceleration of transformation by high aluminum addition and its effect on their mechanical properties
Additions of 3 and 5 wt.% Al have been investigated as a low-cost method for transformation acceleration in nano-bainitic steels. For both Al contents, two groups of steels with C-content in the range ~0.7 to ~0.95 wt.% were studied. Thermodynamic and physical simulations were used in alloy and heat treatment design. Characterization was performed via dilatometry, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, Synchrotron X-ray diffraction, and tensile and impact testing. Fast bainitic-transformation time-intervals ranging from 750–4600 s were recorded and tensile strengths up to 2000 MPa at a ductility of ~10 elongation percent were attainable for the 3 wt.% Al group at an austempering temperature of 265 ◦C. Higher Al additions were found to perform better than their lower Al counterparts as the austempering temperature is dropped. However, Al lowered the austenite stability, increased the martensite start temperature, austenitization temperatures and, consequently, the prior austenite grain size, as well as limiting the austempering temperatures to higher ones. Additionally, the lowered austenite stability coupled with higher additions of hardenability elements (here carbon) to maintain the martensite start at around 300 ◦C, causing the 5 wt.% Al group to have a large amount of low stability retained austenite (and consequently brittle martensite) in their microstructure, leading to a low elongation of around 5%.