Development of nano/sub-micron grain structures in metastable austenitic stainless steels
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This dissertation is a part of a collaborative work between the University of Texas, Austin-Texas, the University of Oulu, Oulu-Finland, and Outokumpu Stainless Oy, Tornio-Finland, , to develop commercial austenitic stainless steels with high strength and ductility. The idea behind this work involves cold-rolling a commercial metastable austenitic stainless steel -- AISI 301LN stainless steel to produce strain-induced martensite, followed by an annealing treatment to generate nano/sub-micron grained austenite. AISI 301LN stainless steel sheets are cold-rolled to 63% reduction and subsequently annealed at 600°C, 700°C, 800°C, 900°C and 1000°C for 1, 10 and 100 seconds. The samples are analyzed by X-Ray diffraction, SQUID, transmission electron microscopy, and tensile testing to fundamentally understand the microstructural evolution, the mechanism for the martensite [implies] austenite reversion, the formation of nano/sub-micron austenite grains, and the relationship between the microstructure and the strength obtained in this stainless steel. The results show that cold-rolled AISI 301LN stainless steel consist of dislocation-cell martensite, heavily deformed lath-martensite and austenite shear bands. Subsequent annealing at 600°C for short durations of 1 and 10 seconds leads to negligible martensite to austenite reversion. These 600°C samples exhibit a similar microstructure to the coldrolled sample. However, for samples annealed at 600°C for 100 seconds and those annealed at higher temperatures (700°C, 800°C, 900°C and 1000°C) exhibit equiaxed austenitic grains of sizes 0.2[mu]m-10[mu]m and secondary phase precipitates. The microstructural analysis also reveals that the martensite [implies] austenite reversion occurs via a diffusion-type reversion mechanism. In this regard, a generalized form of Avrami's equation is used to model the kinetics of martensite [implies] austenite phase reversion. The results from the model agree reasonably well with the experiments. Furthermore, the activation energy for grain growth in nano/sub-micron grained AISI 301LN stainless steel is found to be ~ 205kJ/mol, which is comparable to values observed in coarse grained commercial stainless steels (AISI 304, 316). However, the driving force for grain growth in nano/sub-micron grained AISI 301LN stainless steel is considerably higher when compared to other stainless steels. Finally, the average grain sizes in AISI 301LN stainless steels are related to the mechanical properties obtained, through the Hall-Petch relationship.