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Title: The first high-strength bainitic steel designed for hydrogen embrittlement resistance
Author: Dias, Joachim Octave Valentin
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 3761
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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The phenomenon of hydrogen embrittlement in steel has been known for over 150 years. Hydrogen-resistant alloys have been developed to mitigate this effect and three types of alloys with optimised structures have been enhanced over the years: nickel alloys, stainless steels, and quenched and tempered martensitic low alloy steels. Nevertheless, those alloys are limited in terms of strength and ductility. The aim of the work presented in this thesis was to design bainitic alloys with hydrogen embrittlement resistance, and with a better combination of strength and ductility than conventional alloys. In the novel alloys, two microstructural features were produced to mitigate the damaging effects of hydrogen: 1. A percolating austenite structure, in which hydrogen diffusion is orders of magnitude lower than in bainitic ferrite. This feature was introduced to impede the ingress of hydrogen through the structure. 2. Iron carbide traps, which can form at the bainite transformation temperature. This feature was introduced to trap diffusible hydrogen and prevent it from causing damage. The alloys, designed with the aid of computer models and phase transformation theory, contained a volume fraction of retained austenite above its percolation threshold, theorised as 0.1, which was proven to form an effcient barrier to hydrogen ingress. The effective diffusivity of hydrogen, measured using an electrochemical permeation technique, was shown to decrease with increasing austenite fraction up to the percolation threshold. It was seen to plateau for austenite fractions comprised between 0.1 and 0.18, and to decrease further for fractions above 0.18. The compositions of the alloys were precisely selected to allow for iron carbides to precipitate during the bainitic transformation reaction. Until the present work, only alloy carbides V4C3, TiC and NbC had been reported to strongly trap hydrogen. The literature was very inconsistent regarding the trapping ability of cementite, with reported trap binding energies ranging from 11 to 66 kJ mol−1. The carbides produced in the alloys were identified as cementite. The cementite fraction was measured to be 0.001 ± 0.0001 for one of the designed alloys, which is the lowest ever reported carbide fraction in steel measured using a simple X-ray diffraction technique. Experimental thermal desorption spectroscopy data were used to determine the binding energy of hydrogen to cementite to be 37.5 kJ mol−1, suggesting that cementite is not a strong hydrogen trap. Further tests performed after room temperature hydrogen degassing displayed insignifcant amount of trapped hydrogen, thus confrming the reversible nature of cementite traps. The comparison of two successive transients using the electrochemical permeation technique confirmed that result. The influence of the heat treatments on the microstructures and on the mechanical properties of the designed alloys was extensively studied. The novel alloys met all the set requirements, and successfully outperformed conventional alloys in terms of strength and ductility. They did not meet the NACE TM0316-2016 standard requirement for operation in hydrogen-rich environments, likely owing to the inadequate trapping ability of cementite. Future work should focus on exploring the possible use of alternative carbides for hydrogen trapping in bainitic structures.
Supervisor: Bhadeshia, Harshad Kumar Dharamshi Hansraj Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: steel ; bainite ; austenite ; hydrogen ; embrittlement ; trap ; trapping ; cementite ; percolation ; design ; high strength ; permeation ; thermal desorption spectroscopy