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Spinodal Decomposition in the Binary Fe-Cr System
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Materials Science and Engineering, Physical Metallurgy.
2009 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 30 credits / 45 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Spinodal decomposition is a phase separation mechanism within the miscibility gap. Its importance in case of Fe-Cr system, the basis of the whole stainless steel family, stems from a phenomenon known as the “475oC embrittlement” which results in a ruin of mechanical properties of ferritic, martensitic and duplex stainless steels. This work is aimed at a better understanding of the phase separation process in   the Fe-Cr system.

Alloys of 10 to 55 wt.% Cr , each five percent, were homogenized to achieve fully ferritic microstructure and then isothermally aged at 400, 500 and 600oC for different periods of time ranging from 30min to 1500 hours. Hardness of both homogenized and aged samples were measured by the Vickers micro-hardness method and then selected samples were studied by means of Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM).

 It was observed that hardness of homogenized samples increased monotonically with increasing Cr content up to 55 wt.% which can be attributed to solution hardening as well as higher hardness of pure chromium compared to pure iron.  At 400oC no significant change in hardness was detected for aging up to 1500h, therefore we believe that phase separation effects at 400oC are very small up to this time. Sluggish kinetics is imputed to lower diffusion rate at lower temperatures. At 500oC even after 10h a noticeable change in hardness, for alloys containing 25 wt.% Cr and higher, was observed which indicates occurrence of phase separation. The alloy with 10 wt.% Cr did not show change in hardness up to 200h which suggests that this composition falls outside the miscibility gap at 500oC. For compositions of 15 and 20 wt.% Cr only a small increase in hardness was detected even after 200h of aging at 500oC, which could be due to the small amounts of α´ formed. However, it means that alloys of 15 wt.% Cr and higher are suffering phase separation. For compositions inside the miscibility gap, hardening effect is a result of phase separation either by nucleation and growth or spinodal decomposition. To distinguish between these two mechanisms, TEM studies were performed and we found evidence that at 500oC the Fe-25 wt.% Cr sample decomposes by nucleation  and growth  while that of 35 wt.% Cr  shows characteristics of the spinodal mechanism. For compositions inside the miscibility gap, with increasing Cr content up to 40% the change in hardness generally increased and for 45% and higher it always decreased. This suggests that the composition range corresponding to the spinodal region at 500oC is biased towards the Fe-rich side of the phase diagram. At 600oC only samples of 25, 30 and 35 wt.% Cr were studied because according to the previous studies, the spinodal boundary is most probably located in this composition range. However, no change in hardness was observed even up to 24h. We believe that this means the miscibility line lies below 600oC for alloys containing 35 wt.% Cr and lower. Further investigations are needed to confirm and explain this result. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. , 49 p.
Keyword [en]
Fe-Cr binary system, phase diagram, miscibility gap, spinodal decomposition, nucleation and growth, hardness, TEM, contrast modulations
National Category
Other Materials Engineering
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-37190OAI: diva2:432498
Educational program
Master of Science - Materials Science and Engineering
Available from: 2011-11-21 Created: 2011-08-03 Last updated: 2011-11-21Bibliographically approved

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