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Influence of Co and Al on Bainitic Transformation in
Super Bainitic Steels
Feng Hu, Kai-Ming Wu, and Hua Zheng

The effect of cobalt and aluminum addition on the bainitic transformation of super bainitic
steels was investigated. Nanostructured bainitic ferrite and retained austenite
microstructures were obtained when the steels were transformed at low temperatures.
The bainitic transformation was accelerated by the addition of Co and Al. The thickness of
bainite plate was reduced and the volume fraction of bainite was increased in the Co and
Al containing steel, compared with the parent steel.

1. Introduction 2. Design of Nanostructured Bainitic Steels

With the great demand on resource-saving and energy- Transformation can be accelerated by increasing the free
saving, it is of necessity to develop high performance low energy change accompanying the austenite (g) to ferrite (a)
cost steels. High performance steels, especially extremely transformation. This has to be done without compromising
high strength and good toughness steels, have wide appli- the hardenability of the system if other high-temperature
cation in the manufacturing of aircraft engine shafts, auto- phases are to be avoided. It is well-known that both cobalt
motive and truck parts, crane arms, protective armors, and and aluminum increase the free energy change.[15] The
other important structures.[1–4] The main goal is to reduce basic alloy composition stated in Table 1 is therefore
the weight and to improve the safety of the structures. modified to create an Alloy 2, which contains cobalt and
The quenched and tempered martensitic steels and aluminum, and Alloy 1 is designed for comparison.
nickel and molybdenum-rich maraging steels can satisfy It is worth noting that an increase in the driving force at
the demand of high-strength and high-toughness.[5–7] constant temperature may be beneficial in further refining
However, they are sensitive to cracking during quenching, the microstructure in two ways, by promoting the for-
energy-consuming in the manufacturing and expensive in mation of a greater quantity of bainitic ferrite, thereby
alloying of the steel. In order to overcome these drawbacks eliminating islands of retained austenite, which are known
of quenched and tempered martensitic steels and marag- to be detrimental to mechanical properties.[16] It is the
ing steels, carbide free bainitic steels has been developed films of retained austenite between the plates of bainitic
since last decades. Many of the bainitic steel types cur- ferrite which are desirable. A second advantage could be a
rently exploited commercially are designed experimen- refinement of the size of the bainitic ferrite plates them-
tally, mainly referring to a continuous-cooling- selves, because an increase in the driving force stimulates a
transformation mode.[8] New high-strength and high- greater number density of plates.[17]
toughness carbide free bainitic steels have been recently Calculations of the driving force for the transformation
designed using models based on phase transformation of austenite into ferrite of the same composition, DGg/a,
theory alone.[9–11] The design of such alloys could be done were carried out using MUCG83.Mod program,[18] con-
without recourse to trial and error.[12–14] The aim of the firming the expected effect[15] of cobalt and aluminum
present work is to design theoretically nanostructured bai- on the relative stabilities of austenite and ferrite
nitic steels and to investigate the advanced microstruc- (Figure 1a). The effect of Co and Al addition on the shifting
tures of nano-sized bainitic ferrite and retained austenite. of TTT curves were also calculated for the heat treatment of
bainitic steels (Figure 1b).

[] F. Hu, Prof. K. M. Wu, H. Zheng

International Research Institute for Steel Technology, Wuhan
University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430081, China
3. Experimental
Email: wukaiming@wust.edu.cn, wukaiming2000@yahoo.com
Steel ingots of the composition of Alloy 1 and Alloy 2,
DOI: 10.1002/srin.201200334 shown in Table 1, were provided by Corus UK, hot rolled

ß 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim steel research int. 84 (2013) No. 9999 1

Alloy C Si Mn Mo Cr Co Al

1 0.79 1.59 1.94 0.30 1.33 – 0.013

2 0.78 1.60 2.02 0.24 1.01 3.87 1.37

Table 1. Chemical composition of designed alloys.

Figure 1. Effect of the addition of Co and Al of bainitic transformation. a) The free energy change DGga as a function of temperature
and b) the shifting of TTT curves.

down to slabs of 40 mm thickness. Samples were cut and bainite peaks.[19,20] The measurement error of retained
then homogenized at 12008C for 48 h in a vacuum furnace. austenite volume fraction was 0.015. The carbon concen-
Then they were left in the furnace to cool down to room tration in austenite and ferrite were estimated by using the
temperature over a period of 24 h to obtain a fully pearlitic measured lattice parameters.[20,21] The carbon content in
microstructure. The slow cooling was necessary to avoid austenite xg and ferrite xa can be estimated by using
athermal martensite formation which may introduce equations. The calculation error of carbon concentration
cracks, thus permanently affecting the integrity of the in austenite and ferrite were about 0.10 wt%.
sample. Samples were then machined from the relatively
soft homogenized lumps which are pearlitic, since the ag ¼ 3:5780 þ 0:033xC þ 0:00095xMn  0:0002xNi þ 0:0006xCr
bainitic microstructure is too hard to easily machine.
In order to ensure complete dissolution of cementite þ 0:0056xAl þ 0:0031xMo þ 0:0018xV
present in the as-homogenized pearlitic structure during
subsequent austenitization, steel samples were austeni- ðaFe  0:279MC Þ2 ðaFe þ 2:496MC Þ  a3Fe
tized at 10008C for 15 min. To avoid oxidation, austeniti- aa ¼ 2:8664 þ
zation was carried out in a tube furnace with a continuous
flow of commercial purity argon. Prior to austenitization,  0:03MSi þ 0:06MMn þ 0:07MNi þ 0:31MMo þ 0:05MCr
during sample loading at moderate temperatures, the fur- þ 0:096MV
nace was evacuated and repeatedly flushed with agron.
After holding at the g-phase field for sufficient time to where ag and aa represent the lattice parameter of austen-
ensure a fully austenitic state but not so long to give grain ite and ferrite in Å, respectively. xi is the concentration of
coarsening, the samples were transformed at temperatures element i in weight percent, Mi is the concentration of
ranging from 200 to 3008C for different times in another element i in mole fraction and aFe ¼ 2.8664 Å is the
low temperature furnace before quenching into water. parameter of ferrite in pure iron.
X-ray experiments were conducted using a Phillips After heat treatment specimens were polished and
PPW1730 diffractometer and a scanning rate (2u) of etched with 3 vol% nital solution for microscopy analysis.
0.1 min1 over the range 2u ¼ 30–1108, with unfiltered Cu Microstructural observations were made using scanning
Ka radiation. The system was operated at 45 kV and 45 mA. and transmission electron microscopy. Specimens for
It has been utilized to determine the volume fraction of transmission electron microscopy were machined from
retained austenite and bainitic ferrite were calculated by 3 mm diameter rods which were sliced into 100 mm discs.
means of integrated intensities of the (111), (200), (220), These were ground down to 50 mm thickness using 1200
and (311) austenite peaks, the (110), (002), (112), and (022) grit silicon carbide paper, for electropolishing at 50 V using

2 steel research int. 84 (2013) No. 9999 ß 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

Figure 2. SEM micrographs of bainite isothermally held at 2008C. a) Alloy 1 for 192 h and b) Alloy 2 for 78 h.

Figure 3. TEM images of lamellar bainitic structure. a) Alloy 1 for 192 h and b) Alloy 2 for 78 h.

a twin-jet unit. The electrolyte consisted of 5% perchloric and film-like retained austenite. Figure 3 shows the high
acid, 15% glycerol, and 80% methanol. A JEOL JEM-200CX magnification TEM images of the specimens isothermally
transmission electron microscope operated at 200 kV was held at 2008C. It is obvious that the thickness (33 nm) of
used to examine the thin foils. Transmission electron Alloy 2 was much smaller than that (47 nm) of the parent
microscopy was performed to determine the true plate Alloy 1, as shown in Figure 4. The measured hardness
thicknesses t, by measuring the mean lineal intercept (Figure 4) further confirmed the observed microstructures.
LT ¼ pt=2 in a direction normal to the plate length. The Alloy 2 with a finer microstructure had a higher hardness
thickness t is related to the mean lineal intercept measured than the parent Alloy 1. The hardness of both steels was
using randomly oriented test lines by the relation reduced when they were transformed at higher transform-
L ffi 2t,[22,23] but LT is easier to measure since it is rare in ation temperatures.
transmission electron micrographs that entire plates of
bainite can be imaged.
Vickers hardness tests are reported as the average of at
least ten tests. The tests were conducted using a 1 kg load,
each value represents the mean of those measurements.

4. Results
4.1. Microstructures and Hardness

Representative SEM micrographs illustrating the micro-

structure of super bainitic steels with different compo-
sition are shown in Figure 2. It is seen that the
microstructures consist of extremely fine bainitic ferrite Figure 4. Thickness and hardness of super bainitic steels.

ß 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim steel research int. 84 (2013) No. 9999 3

Figure 5. a) Volume fraction and b) carbon concentration of phases in super bainitic steels.

4.2. Phase Fractions and Carbon Content The contribution to strength due to the size of the plates
is given by Ds ¼ 115ðLÞ1 MPa where L is the mean linear
X-ray analysis show that the transformed microstructures intercept in micrometers.[24] From this equation, and given
consist of bainitic ferrite and carbon-enriched retained the very fine scale of the bainitic ferrite plate, it is easily
austenite (Figure 5). It is seen that the addition of Co known that much of the strength of low-temperature bain-
and Al increases the volume fraction of bainite and carbon ite is due to the fine scale plate. In practice, the mean lineal
concentration of retained austenite (Figure 5). In addition, intercept L should depend on the fraction of bainite (Vb ), if
for both steels, the volume fraction and carbon concen- plates are assumed to be square, then ðLÞ1 /Vb =t, since the
tration of retained austenite increases with the increase in ferrite plates are dispersed in the austenite matrix.[24]
the transformation temperature.

5.2. Incomplete Reaction

The carbon concentration in the retained austenite and

5. Discussion bainitic ferrite were determined using standard X-ray
analysis (Figure 5) for the samples in which the transform-
5.1. Microstructural Effects ation had stopped. The T0/ and the paraequilibrium a þ g/
g phase boundaries were calculated using MUCG83.Mod
The hardness versus the reciprocal of plate thickness and program (Figure 7).[18] The effect of Co and Al addition on
volume fraction for bainite are plotted in Figure 6. It is seen the shifting of T0 curves were also calculated for the heat
that the hardness increases with decreasing bainite plate treatment of bainitic steels. As the super bainitic trans-
thickness and increases with increasing bainite volume formation proceeded, the carbon was expelled from the
fraction. The increase in strength is due to the thinner bainite into the austenite. Due to the Co and Al addition,
bainitic ferrite plates generated at lower temperatures. the carbon content of the retained austenite increased and

Figure 6. Plot of a) hardness versus the reciprocal of plate thickness and b) hardness versus volume fraction of bainite.

4 steel research int. 84 (2013) No. 9999 ß 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

Keywords: steels; microstructure; transformation;
hardness; super bainite


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