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Title: Understanding toughness and ductility in novel steels with mixed microstructures
Author: Fielding, Lucy Chandra Devi
ISNI:       0000 0004 5364 7465
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2014
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The purpose of the work presented in this thesis was to explore and understand the mechanisms governing toughness, ductility and ballistic performance in a class of nanostructured carbide-free bainite-austenite steels, sometimes known as ‘superbainite’. The mechanical properties of these alloys have been extensively reported, but their interpretation is not clear. The thesis begins with an introduction to both the relevant nanostructures and some of the difficulties involved in explaining observed properties, alongside a summary of the role of mixed- microstructures in alloy development. An overview of the debate regarding the mechanism of bainite formation is pre- sented in Chapter 2, in the form of a literature survey encompassing the period of explicit recognition of the bainite microstructure. Of note is the role played by the displacive theory of formation in the development of the alloy structures investigated in this thesis. A characterisation of a commonly available bainitic alloy forms the basis for Chapter 4. Observations confirm the nanoscale nature of the structure, although additional phases are found to be present, namely: cementite and martensite. This is explained as resulting from relatively low alloying additions and chem- ical segregation effects, which are modelled using thermodynamic and kinetic approaches. Chapters 5 and 6 contain a comprehensive study of the response of this alloy to the stress concentration present at the notch root of a Charpy impact sample. The work provides evidence of notch root embrittlement due to stress-induced martensite transformation. Results from synchrotron and laboratory X-ray experiments in particular reveal that machining, as well as applied stress, can initiate the austenite-martensite transformation, and methods to mitigate this effect are suggested. An innovative approach is harnessed in Chapter 7, in order to identify exper- imentally the volume fraction at which three-dimensional connectivity (‘percolation’) of austenite is lost in a superbainitic steel. Hydrogen thermal desorption techniques are applied to this problem, inspired by the tendency of such alloys to undergo tensile failure with limited or zero necking. The striking result sheds light on the importance of austenite morphology in restricting the diffusion of hydrogen into a mixed structure. The final set of experimental work is directed towards understanding the damage mechanisms that occur during projectile penetration of a coarser bainitic armour- plate alloy. The formation of adiabatic shear bands is found to be a dominant factor governing the ballistic failure of the plate. The sheared material undergoes severe high-temperature deformation, but does not change phase upon cooling, leading to the proposal of certain methods that could be implemented to improve ballistic resistance of the steel. The totality of the research presented herein is summarised in Chapter 9, which draws attention to new areas of interest that have arisen from the current work, proposing several future directions of investigation. The broader issue of understanding, common to all studies performed thus far, is that of the causes, effects, and extent, of stress-induced transformation to martensite experienced by the retained austenite that is a key feature of superbainite and similar steels.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council ; Tata Steel UK ; Worshipful Company of Ironmongers
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Steels ; Nanostructured metals ; Bainite ; Hydrogen desorption ; Adiabatic shear bands ; Martensitic transformation ; Toughness