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Austenite formation and grain refinement in C-Mn steels Azizi-Alizamini, Hamid


The present work deals with grain refinement and austenite formation in a plain C-Mn steel with 0.17C-0.74Mn (wt pct). To improve the limited work hardening capability of ultrafine grained ferritic steels, new approaches were adopted to develop bimodal ferrite grain size distributions and ultrafine grained dual phase microstructures. The first approach is based on deformation and annealing of a ferrite-martensite microstructure. Ultrafine grained dual phase steels were obtained through rapid heating of very fine ferrite-carbide aggregates into the intercritical annealing region where partial austenite formation takes place. Hence, austenite formation was systematically investigated using a combination of microstructure characterization and detailed dilatometry analysis. The effect of initial structure and heating rate on austenite formation was examined. The resulting microstructure characteristics and mechanical properties of dual phase steels were also investigated. A multi-phase field modelling approach was adopted to simulate austenite formation from a variety of initial structures including ferrite-spheroidized carbide aggregates, fully pearlitic and ferrite-pearlite structures. The results show that a bimodal distribution of ferrite grains negates the Lüdering effect, yet the improvement of work hardening rate remains marginal compared to fine grained ferrite structures. Very fine grained initial structure and rapid heat treatment cycle are essential parameters to achieve ultrafine grained dual phase steels with improved mechanical properties in the steel employed in this study. For austenite formation, dilatation data can be used to distinguish different stages of microstructure evolution upon heating into the single austenite phase region including ferrite recrystallization, pearlite to austenite and ferrite to austenite transformation. Heating rate has a pronounced effect on the size and morphology of austenite grains in the intercritical annealing region. It is shown that phase field modelling is capable of predicting microstructural changes during austenite formation. It is well suited to capture complex interaction between microstructure processes such as spheroidization, carbide dissolution and coarsening during austenite formation especially in fine grained structures where the length scale is comparable with carbon diffusion distance.

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