2014 Volume 54 Issue 12 Pages 2890-2899
The effect of the addition of 0.042 wt.% of titanium on the relation between the evolution of the microstructure and the softening kinetics of quenched martensite in high-purity Fe–C–Mn steel has been studied during tempering at 300 and 550°C. The evolution of the microstructure is characterized by measuring the cementite particle size, the martensite block size, the area fraction of martensite regions which contain a high dislocation density, the macroscopic hardness, the nano-hardness of martensite blocks boundaries, the nano-hardness of the matrix and the TiC-precipitate size during tempering. Nucleation of TiC-precipitates take place during annealing at 550°C and starts earlier in regions close to the block boundaries, after 5–10 minutes, and thereafter in the matrix, after 10–30 minutes, due to the higher dislocation density in the regions close to the block boundaries. The TiC-precipitates slow down the recovery in regions of high dislocation density compared to the alloy without TiC-precipitates. The TiC-precipitates increase the macroscopic hardness of the steel after 30 minutes annealing at 550°C. The growth of TiC-precipitates in martensite is simulated in good agreement with experimental observations by a model that takes into account: 1) capillarity effects, 2) the overlap of the titanium diffusion fields between TiC-precipitates, and 3) the effect of pipe diffusion of titanium atoms via multiple dislocations. The average, experimentally observed, TiC-precipitate size is 69 ± 48 Ti atoms.