2012 Volume 52 Issue 2 Pages 213-221
The effect of uniform distribution of fine cementite on resistance of ultra-high strength steels to hydrogen embrittlement was studied. The materials used were directly-quenched and tempered 1000–1300 MPa class low carbon steel plates for welded structures with lath martensite structure. Cementite morphology was different at different heating rates to tempering temperatures. Finer cementite was distributed in rapidly-heated steels (20°C/s) than in slowly-heated steels (0.3°C/s). The rapidly-heated steels showed higher resistance to hydrogen embrittlement than the slowly-heated steels for a slow strain rate test (SSRT), whereas they showed almost the same resistance to hydrogen embrittlement for a constant load test (CLT). The specimens fractured in a plastic region for the SSRT, on the other hand, the CLT was conducted in an elastic region. The difference in hydrogen embrittlement resistance between plastic and elastic loading methods was concluded to result from a change in the hydrogen trap state at cementite in association with plasticity. Hydrogen is more strongly trapped at and/or around the strained interfaces between the matrix and cementite after plastic deformation. A close observation of fracture surfaces, hydrogen thermal desorption analysis and hydrogen microprint technique revealed that the high resistance of the rapidly-heated and tempered steels to hydrogen embrittlement for the SSRT is due to a shift of the fracture mode from quasi-cleavage fracture to ductile fracture. This shift was caused by the suppression of the quasi-cleavage fracture due to less hydrogen at lath boundaries accompanied by the uniform distribution of fine cementite.