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Technical Information 28

Magnesium versus Sulphur in Ductile Iron

Magnesium is added to liquid iron through the nodularizing operation mainly to
desulphurize and deoxidize the base iron. When the base iron is properly desulphurized,
graphite will grow as spheres instead of flakes resulting in good ductile iron. The principal
desulphurizing reaction of magnesium in liquid iron is as follows:

Mg + S = MgS

This directly implies that lower base iron sulphur content will minimize the requirement for
magnesium addition to make good ductile iron. The curves below show a schematic
relationship between the base iron sulphur content and required residual magnesium to
produce ductile iron.

Figure 1. Schematic representation of the relation between base iron

sulphur content and required residual magnesium to produce ductile iron.

The curves in Figure 1 can be explained as follows. The lower straight line indicates the
minimum theoretical Mg required to give a 1:1 ratio between Mg and S. However, Mg also
goes into solution in the iron and evaporates (fades) during time, and the upper three
curves shows recommended Mg addition to account for such dissolution and fading
effects. When iron of a base sulphur of 0.02%S is faded for about 12-15 minutes, a resi-
dual initial Mg of about 0.05% may be required.
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Technical Information 28 2

Mg Large MgO, MgS and
Mg-Si-oxide particles
Nucleation Sites
Small MgO, MgS and
Mg-Si-oxide particles

= Desulphurising + Deoxidising

Figure 2. Principal effects of magnesium in tying up sulphur and oxygen

to produce slag and nucleation sites.

Figure 2 above shows a schematic representation of the principal reactions between Mg,
S and O forming potential slag and nucleation sites for graphite. Figure 3 below shows an
example of the effects of two base iron sulphur levels and a low and constant MgFeSi
addition. The higher S of 0.018% is excess for the low Mg causing poor nodularity.

Base S = 0.018 % Base S = 0.010 %

1.0 wt% MgFeSi 1.0 wt% MgFeSi
Final Mg = 0.033 % Final Mg = 0.030 %
Final S = 0.016 % Final S = 0.010 %
Nodularity ∼ 50 % Nodularity ∼ 90 %

Figure 3. Example of the effects of base iron sulphur at 0.018% and 0.010%
respectively, for a constant addition of magnesium at 1 wt% MgFeSi alloy
giving a constant residual Mg around 0.03% in the treated iron.

For more information about residual magnesium in ductile iron, please refer to Elkem
Technical Information sheet 7.