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ISIJ International
Vol. 43 (2003) No. 3 P 410-419



Advanced research on structural steels has recently focused on the improvement of properties through the control of grain size. Grain refinement increases strength via the Hall-Petch relation, lowers the ductile-brittle transition by increasing resistance to transgranular cleavage, and reduces hydrogen embrittlement by minimizing interfacial fracture along grain or lath boundaries. However, given their different mechanisms, these properties require slightly different measures of the effective grain size. When the grains are smooth and random, all measures of the effective grain size are roughly equivalent. However, transformations in steel are often crystallographically coherent, producing a martensitic, bainitic or ferritic product that has either a Kurdumov-Sachs (KS) or a Nishiyama-Wasserman (NW) relation to the parent austenite. The 24 KS variants and 12 NW variants divide into three sets of eight, corresponding to the three Bain variants of the fcc→bcc transformation. Grain, packet or block boundaries that separate different Bain variants have signifi-cant misorientations of the {100} cleavage planes, but may have only slight misorientations of the {110} slip planes. It follows that grain refinement through coherent transformation is very effective in improving resistance to cleavage fracture and, if the boundary facets are small, to hydrogen embrittlement, but is often relatively ineffective in increasing strength. For this reason, grain refinement for increased strength is best done with incoherent transformations (such as the strain-induced ferrite transformation) while grain refinement for low-temperature toughness or hydrogen resistance is best done with coherent transformations that refine the effective grain size without overstrengthening to unacceptably low ductility.

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