The breakdown of stainless steels in strong acids
A study was made of the corrosion behaviour in the ASTM standard Nitric acid and Oxalic acid tests, of two commercial AISI type 304L steels in the as received condition and after various heat treatments. Optical microscopy and SEM, TEM and STEM in conjunction with energy dispersive x-ray analysis, were used to correlate the corrosion behaviour of these steels with their microstructure. Some evidence of phosphorus segregation at grain boundaries was found. The corrosion behaviour at microstructural level was studied by examining on the TEM thin foils of steel that had been exposed to boiling nitric acid. Banding attack in the nitric acid and oxalic acid tests was studied using SEM and EPNA and found to be due to the micro-segregation of chromium and nickel. Using two experimental series of 304L, one a 17% Cr, 91 Ni, steel with phosphorus additions from 0.006% to 0.028%, the other a 20% Cr, 121 Ni steel with boron additions from 0.0011 to 0.00B51. The effect of these elements on corrosion in the nitric acid test was studied. The effect of different cooling rates and different solution treatment temperature on the behaviour of these steels was examined. TEM and STEM in conjunction with energy-dispersive x-ray analysis were again used to study the microstructure of the steels. Phosphorus was found to affect the corrosion behaviour but no effect was found with boron.