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Materials Science and Engineering A 385 (2004) 6573

Microstructure control and wear resistance of grain boundary allotriomorphic ferrite/granular bainite duplex steel
Pingguang Xu a,b, , Bingzhe Bai a , Fuxing Yin b , Hongsheng Fang a , Kotobu Nagai b
a b

Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China Steel Research Center, National Institute for Materials Science, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 3050047, Japan Received 23 February 2004; received in revised form 7 April 2004

Abstract The abrasive wear resistance of a hot-rolled and air-cooled high strength low alloy (HSLA) steel with grain boundary allotriomorphic ferrite/granular bainite (FGBA /Bg) duplex microstructure was investigated by comparison with the granular bainitic steel with the same composition and other two commercial HSLA ferrite/pearlite steels. The results from the wet sand/rubber wheel abrasion test show that the FGBA /Bg duplex steel possesses remarkably higher wear resistance than the two ferrite/pearlite steels, even higher than the granular bainitic steel with a higher hardness. The cross-sectional morphology of the worn surfaces reveals that the higher resistance to abrasive wear is mainly ascribed to the dispersive hard martensite/austenite (M/A) islands. The qualitative analysis on the work hardening characteristics and the microcrack initiation mechanisms indicates that in the FGBA /Bg duplex steel, the existence of the grain boundary allotriomorphic ferrite and the retained austenite in the self-tempered M/A islands improves the accommodated deformation capacity of the subsurface microstructure, and prevents the brittle exfoliation occurring in the granular bainitic steel. 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Abrasive wear; Material removal/failure mechanisms; Plastic deformation; Grain boundary allotriomorphic ferrite; Granular bainite; High strength low alloy steel

1. Introduction The contact surfaces of mine machinery, farm machinery, transferring pipeline for powders, etc. are commonly subjected to abrasion by soil, sand, coal dust and so on during the service. The wear involves the successive removal of the surface materials by repeated friction and microscopic mechanical fracture, which is mainly controlled by the microscopic stress distribution and microstructure in the contact region [1,2]. The utilization of proper materials can enhance the wear resistance effectively under the low stress abrasion and improve the service life of the relevant machinery substantially. Many factors, especially those related to the microstructure and mechanical property, affect the wear resistance of high strength low alloy (HSLA) steels. The wear resistance is proportional to the hardness for pure metals and annealed
Corresponding author. Tel.: +81 29 859 2230; fax: +81 29 859 2201. E-mail addresses: xupg98@mails.tsinghua.edu.cn, xu.pingguang@nims.go.jp (P.-G. Xu). 0921-5093/$ see front matter 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.msea.2004.04.073

steels, while the hardened steels show an improved abrasion resistance over the annealed ones [3,4]. The basic microstructure is also inuential: if the microstructure of the matrix changes from the ferrite to the pearlite, bainite or martensite, the wear resistance will increase almost consecutively [1,5]. Furthermore, by decreasing the grain size and/or increasing the carbon content, the steel with a similar microstructure will show a linear decrease in the wear weight loss [6]. Although the alloyed austenite itself does not account for the higher wear resistance, the lath martensitic microstructure containing dispersive ne intralath carbides, which was surrounded by the retained austenite lms, shows the best abrasive wear-resistance [3,7]. However, the transformation-induced plasticity (TRIP) role of the retained austenite is not always effective, especially for the low stress abrasion [2]. In the mean time, the fairly high carbon content is quite detrimental to the steel ductility and weldability. Recently, Prasad and co-workers [8] reported that the steels with ferrite/martensite dual phase microstructure show better abrasive wear resistance than the martensitic steels with the same composition. It means that the duplex

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Table 1 Nominal chemical compositions of the experimental steels Steel FP MFP BG, FBG Content (mass%) C 0.16 0.15 0.060.12 Mn 1.40 1.42 1.52.5 Si 0.40 0.28 0.61.2 S 0.018 0.014 0.025 P 0.016 0.022 0.025 Cr 0.20 0.051.2 V 0.045 0.073 0.025 Nb 0.031

2. Experimental 2.1. Material preparation and mechanical property measurement Three steels as shown in Table 1 were chosen for evaluating the abrasive wear resistance of the FGBA /Bg duplex steel. The 180 mm-thick ferrite/pearlite steel (FP) and microalloyed ferrite/pearlite steel (MFP) were soaked at 1200 C for 7.2 103 s, and then hot-rolled to 12 mm-thick steel plates with a nish rolling temperature 900 C before air cooling to the room temperature. The FGBA /Bg duplex steel (FBG) and the granular bainite steel (BG) with same nominal composition were hot-rolled in the same way as that for the steels FP and MFP. The steel FBG was air-cooled to about 250 C, then self-tempered by plate stacking, while the steel BG was forced air-cooled to room temperature so as to obtain a full granular bainite microstructure, and then immediately tempered at 250 C for 7.2 103 s. The transverse tensile properties were measured with a Shijin WAW-Y500 universal test machine at a strain rate of 8.0 104 s1 at the room temperature. The gauge section was 25 mm in width, 125 mm in length and 12 mm in thickness. The hardness measurement of the four HSLA steels was carried out with a Vickers hardness tester at an applied load of 98 N. The impact toughness of the Charpy V-notched (CVN) full-sized test pieces along the rolling direction was measured with a JCSJ300-1 instrumented impact machine tester at the room temperature.

Fig. 1. Schematic illustration of the grain boundary allotriomorphic ferrite/granular bainite (FGBA /Bg) duplex microstructure.

microstructure composed of the proper wear resistant hard phase and high toughness matrix can improve the wear resistance. In order to meet the property requirements on the steel wearability, ductility and weldability for the commercial production of the high performance low cost truck hoppers, a hot-rolled and air-cooled HSLA steel with the grain boundary allotriomorphic ferrite/granular bainite (FGBA /Bg) duplex microstructure has been developed to replace the conventional ferrite/pearlite steel [9,10]. The matrix phase in this steel is not the ductile allotriomorphic ferrite but the granular bainite composed of the bainitic ferrite laths and the interlath martensite/austenite (M/A) islands, as illustrated in Fig. 1. The matrix phase in the conventional dual phase steels is soft polygonal ferrite. In addition, a small amount of retained austenite thermally stabilized in the M/A islands has been utilized to obtain a better toughness. In this paper, the abrasive wear characteristics of the above FGBA /Bg duplex steel has been investigated with a wet sand/rubber wheel abrasion tester, and then compared with the granular bainitic steel with the same composition and other two commercial ferrite/pearlite steels. When the metals undergo abrasion, the surfaces work-harden to such an extent that the hardness beneath the abraded surface is apparently higher than that of the bulk. The material with a higher work hardening rate and/or a higher worn surface hardness was claimed to have much higher wear resistance [3,6,11,12]. The inuence of the microstructures with various work hardening behaviors on the abrasive wear resistance in the above air-cooled high strength low alloy steels are also compared and analyzed.

Fig. 2. Schematic diagram of the wet sand/rubber wheel abrasion tester.

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2.2. Abrasive wear tests The low stress abrasive wear tests were performed with a MLS-23 wet sand/rubber wheel abrasion tester, as schematically illustrated in Fig. 2, as per ASTM G105-89, at an applied load of 68.6 N and a relative linear sliding speed of 2.21 m/s. The neoprene rubber-rimmed wheel was 176 mm in diameter, 12.80 mm in width and A/60.2/5 in Shore A Durometer hardness. The sand slurry was prepared by mixing 1.500 kg of crushed quartz silica sand (size: 212425 mm) per 0.940 kg of deionized water. The refreshed sand slurry was used in each wear test. The rectangular specimens (size: 57 mm 25.5 mm 6.4 mm) cut along the rolling direction of the steel plate were metallographically polished prior to the tests, and pre-braded for a sliding distance of 553 m (1000 revolutions). Then they were immediately cleaned with acetone and the weight was measured with an analytical balance before and after the abrasion tests for the different sliding distances. For comparison, the ratio of the average wear volume loss of the three specimens to the sliding distance in the same condition was taken as the wear rate. In the sharp quartz sand slurry, the abrasive wear is much severer than the corrosive wear

[13], therefore only the abrasive wear is mentioned in this paper. 2.3. Microstructure and subsurface observations Two pieces with the size 10 mm 10 mm were cut from the worn specimen center for each experiment. One of them was used directly for the worn surface observation, and the other was nickel-plated for the further characterization of the subsurface microstructure and the worn prole perpendicular to the relative sliding direction. The characterizations of the worn surface, the subsurface region, the microstructure, and the longitudinal section of the necked regions in the tensile specimens were all performed with a scanning electron microscope (LEO1530). The volume fraction of the grain boundary allotriomorphic ferrite in the FGBA /Bg duplex steel was obtained from the average value of ten vision elds by using the grid area method with an Olympus PMG3 optical microscope. The volume fraction of the retained austenite in the steels BG and FBG was quantitatively measured by the saturation magnetization method with a LDJ 9600 vibratory sample magnetometer (VSM). The standard specimen with the size 4 mm 4 mm 1 mm was prepared by soaking it in

Fig. 3. SEM microstructures of the four HSLA steels: (a) Steel FP (b) steel MFP (c) steel BG and (d) steel FBG.

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the owing argon at 900 C for 1.8 103 s and then directly quenching into liquid nitrogen.

3. Results 3.1. Microstructure and mechanical properties Fig. 3 shows the microstructures of the four HSLA steels. The steels MFP and FP both consist of the typical ferrite/pearlite microstructure, while the ferrite grains and pearlite colonies of the steel MFP are fairly smaller than those of the steel FP due to the microalloying effects of vanadium and niobium. The steels BG and FBG are apparently different from the steels FP and MFP. The granular bainitic steel BG is composed of the elongated bainitic ferrite (dark gray) and the martensiteaustenite constituents (M/A islands, light gray). The FGBA /Bg duplex steel FBG is composed of the granular bainite and the proeutectoid ferrite growing along the prior austenite grain boundary as shown in Fig. 3(d). The statistical analysis of the optical microstructure shows that the steel FBG had about 18 vol.% FGBA . The results obtained from the saturation magnetization method indicate that the steel FBG and the steel BG contained 4.7 and 0.6 vol.% retained austenite, respectively. Fig. 4 shows the mechanical properties of the experimental steels mentioned above. Since work hardening has an important effect on the abrasive wear resistance of materials [13], the work hardening rate n of all the experimental steels obtained by the uniform extension test is also shown in Fig. 4. Among these experimental steels, the ferrite/pearlite steel

FP attains the highest elongation and the lowest strength and hardness, while the microalloyed ferrite/pearlite steel MFP shows the highest impact toughness and the lowest work hardening rate. The granular bainitic steel BG shows the highest strength, the highest work hardening rate and the lowest elongation and impact toughness. By comparison, the steel FBG shows a good balance of strength, ductility, toughness and work hardening rate, due to the duplex microstructure composed of 18 vol.% grain boundary allotriomorphic ferrite, self-tempered martensite islands and 4.7 vol.% retained austenite. 3.2. Abrasive wear resistance The abrasive wear resistances of the four experimental steels are plotted in Fig. 5 as a function of the tensile strength. The wear rate of the FGBA /Bg duplex steel FBG is obviously lower than those of the ferrite/pearlite steels FP and MFP, even lower than that of the granular bainitic steel BG with

Fig. 4. Mechanical properties of the four HSLA steels.

Fig. 5. Abrasive wear resistance of the four high strength low alloy steels as a function of the tensile strength: (a) relation between wear rate and tensile strength and (b) variety in relative wear resistance with the increment of tensile strength.

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Fig. 6. Worn surfaces of the four experimental steels: (a and b) typical plowing and gouging grooves (FP); (c and d) wider grooves and surface ow layer expanding in the sliding direction (MFP); (e and f) ner scratching grooves and brittle spalling exfoliation (BG); (g and h) ner scratching and local gouging grooves (FBG).

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Fig. 7. Polished and etched cross-sections of worn surfaces of the four experimental steels perpendicular to the wear grooves: deeper grooves in both the steels FP (a and b) and MFP (c and d); shallower grooves and micro-cracks in the steel BG (e and f); shallower grooves in the steel FBG (g and h) F: ferrite, P: pearlite, FGBA : grain boundary allotriomorphic ferrite, Bg : granular bainite.

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same abrasive wear condition, the wear grooves in the ferrite grains are much deeper and wider than those in the pearlite packets (Fig. 7(ad)). A lot of triangular etching pits (Fig. 7(c)) indicate that the large plastic deformation occurs in the ferrite grains. In the steels BG and FBG, the wear grooves are much shallower and narrower than those in the ferrite/pearlite steels, even in the FGBA . It means that the high

Fig. 8. Work hardening characteristics of the four experimental steels during the uniaxial uniform extension.

a higher hardness (Fig. 5(a)). It seems for the steel BG, the relationship between the tensile strength and the wear rate deviates from a linear one to a certain extent. As the sliding distance increases, the deviation becomes more apparent. Meanwhile, as the sliding distance increases, the wear rates of the experimental steels with the different microstructures gradually decrease (Fig. 5(a)), for example, the average wear rate of the steel FBG for a sliding distance 1106 m is only about 65% of that for 277 m. This is partly due to the blunting effect of sand particles after a long distance abrasion as explained in the literature [14] and partly due to the abrasion-induced work hardening of the subsurface regions [8,11]. On the other hand, if the steel FP is thought as the referred material, the relative wear resistance of the steels MFP, BG and FBG gradually increase (Fig. 5(b)) with increasing the sliding distance, and nally reach 1.10, 1.17 and 1.36, respectively, indicating that the FGBA /Bg duplex microstructure possesses a higher wear resistance in dull abrasives than in sharp abrasives. 3.3. Worn surface and subsurface morphology The SEM morphology of the worn surfaces is shown in Fig. 6. The worn surfaces of the ferrite/pearlite steels FP and MFP show the typical plowing grooves of low stress abrasion as well as the local pits. Some deeper gouging grooves in the FP steel (A and B in Fig. 6(b)) and some surface ow layers which expand in the sliding direction and form a protrusion of thin lm (Fig. 6(d)) can also be observed. The steels BG and FBG both show much ner, shallower and relatively continuous plowing grooves. However, there are some brittle cracks and fragmentation on the worn surface of the steel BG (Fig. 6(f)). The subsurface microstructure and cross-sectional wear prole are shown in Fig. 7, where the upper dark gray layers in the SEM photos are the electroplated nickel. In the

Fig. 9. Crack initiation behavior of the granular bainitic steel and the FGBA /Bg duplex steel in the uniaxial tensile condition: (a) steel BG and (b and c) steel FBG.

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strength M/A islands (light gray) can apparently improve the wear resistance. However, many microcracks appear in the subsurface layer of the granular bainitic steel, as indicated by the arrows in Fig. 7(ef). Some microcracks even connect with each other and develop into large propagatable cracks. Due to the repeated external stress of abrasives, the local brittle wear exfoliation nally occurs (Fig. 7f). On the contrary, no brittle exfoliation or microcracks can be observed in the subsurface layer of the FGBA /Bg duplex steel (Fig. 7(gh)). 3.4. Work hardening characteristics and microcrack initiation behavior Fig. 8 shows the true strain dependence of the true stress for the four HSLA steels. Here, we supposed that there is no volume variation during the uniform deformation of the uniaxial extension. Although the soft ferrite phase in both ferrite/pearlite steels shows good ductility, the low yield strength and the low work hardening rate still result in a low maximum true stress before specimen necking. However, the maximum true stress of the steel FBG with a lower yield strength is slightly higher than that of the steel BG due to better ductility and proper work hardening rate (Fig. 8). Fig. 9 shows the difference in the crack initiation behavior between the steels BG and FBG by using SEM observation, where the arrows indicate the loading direction of the tensile specimens. In the steel BG, many microcracks marked as A in Fig. 9(a) initiate at the interface between the M/A island (light gray) and the bainitic ferrite matrix at a low true strain about 10%. Then these microcracks connect with each other and develop into the large cleavage cracks by cutting the M/A islands (from B to C, almost to D). In the steel FBG (Fig. 9b), the microcracks (marked as A) usually initiate in the soft ferrite due to the multislip of the dislocations after a large true strain (about 14%) and develop into microvoids marked as B during the further deformation. It is obvious that the ferrite grains in the steel FBG elongate along the external loading direction. The relevant plastic slip bands can be easily identied, and the long axes of the M/A islands in the granular bainite colonies also rotate in the same direction (Fig. 9(c)). It reveals that the accommodated deformation capacity among FGBA , the M/A islands and the bainitic ferrite in the steel FBG is much stronger than that between the M/A islands and the bainitic ferrite matrix in the steel BG.

4. Discussion Although the hardness is often considered to be the most important parameter controlling the abrasion resistance of a material, recent studies [11,12,1520] have indicated that some other mechanical properties of the subsurface layer with severe plastic deformation have a more important effect on the abrasive wear resistance. For example, comparing

with the dual phase steel composed of more martensite and less ferrite, the corresponding martensitic steel with a higher hardness results in the lower wear resistance, which was ascribed to the inferior ductility of the subsurface layer [8]. Since the subsurface layers are not enough thick and at, the direct evaluation of the mechanical properties except for the hardness is relatively difcult. Therefore, the uniaxial tensile deformation and microcrack initiation behavior of the experimental steels are worth investigating, especially for the steels BG and FBG with same nominal composition. It is suggested that the occurrence of the abrasive wear loss in volume is ascribed to: (a) a direct material removal by means of the formation of grooves and plastic pits, (b) an indirect material removal by means of the formation of brittle exfoliation originating from the subsurface cleavage cracks. According to the above observations, the steel BG suffers from two types of removals, while the steels FP, MFP and FBG only suffer from the direct surface material removal. During the tensile deformation, once the ultimate tensile strength or the maximum uniform stress is attained, the internal microcracks or microvoids will appear in the local necking zone of the tensile specimen, indicating that the maximum accommodated deformation among various microstructural constituents has been reached. If the maximum true stress during the uniform extension is considered as a rough parameter to estimate the accommodated work hardening capacity of various constituents in the material, the steel FBG possesses the highest work hardening capacity among the four experimental steels (Fig. 8). As described in Balls paper regarding the deformed surface layer [11], the material is removed from the worn surface by abrasive wear when a critical fracture strain f (the largest local tensile strain that a material can bear) is achieved locally after a single abrasive strike or as acumulative effect of many strikes. If a mean stress m is considered simply for the imposed stress from the abrasive particles, the rst abrasive strike at the mean applied stress m causes a limited amount of plastic strain and work hardening. If further strain is to be imparted into the surface, a strike of higher stress is required. The steels FBG and BG have a much higher maximum true stress max than the steels MFP and FP before specimen necking, i.e. FBG > BG > MFP > FP as shown in Fig. 8. The max max max max FBG frequency of strikes of higher stress levels (i.e. max BG or max ) is relatively smaller; in other words, it is not easy to attain the maximum true strain max and the critical fracture stain f (max f ) in the surface layer of the steel FBG and BG. Therefore, the steels FBG and BG show lower abrasive wear rates. For various sliding distances, as shown in Fig. 10, the abrasive wear rates of the four experimental steels decrease linearly with the increase of the maximum true stresses during the uniaxial uniform extension. Only the steel BG steel deviates from the dashed slope line due to the indirect material removal. In fact, there are local tensile and compressive stress zones present in the material subsurface under the normal

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by comparing it with those of the granular bainitic steel with same composition and other two commercial ferrite/pearlite steels. The FGBA /Bg duplex steel shows a much higher wear resistance than the ferrite/pearlite steels, even better than the granular bainitic steel with a higher hardness. The observations of the subsurface microstructure and material removal behavior showed that the dispersive hard M/A islands in the duplex microstructure possess high resistance to the formation of the abrasive grooves. The existence of the soft FGBA and the retained austenite in the self-tempered M/A islands increases the accommodated deformation capacity of the subsurface layer and prevents the brittle exfoliation occurring in the granular bainitic steel.

Acknowledgements
Fig. 10. Abrasive wear rates of the four high strength low alloy steels as a function of the maximum true stress of uniaxial uniform extension.

force from the abrasive particles [5]. The local stress of the material may even exceed the yield stress of the material because of the material heterogeneities [15]. As a result, the repeated tensile stress may cause the local fatigue, especially in the brittle materials [21]. As mentioned in Section 3.4, the accommodated deformation capacity between the tempered hard M/A islands and the bainitic ferrite matrix in the BG steel is much weaker than that among the FGBA , the bainitic ferrite and the self-tempered M/A islands containing certain retained austenite in the steel FBG. Therefore, the cumulative effect of the repeated strikes will result in a quite high dislocation density in the subsurface layer of the BG steel, especially near the interfaces of the hard M/A islands and bainitic ferrite matrix. Accordingly, local stress concentrations will appear and the microcracks (marked with arrows in Fig. 7(ef)) will nally initiate in the above tensile stress zones. These microcracks will grow into the large cleavage cracks, propagate to the worn surface and nally form the brittle exfoliation (Fig. 6f). No internal microcrack occurs in the steel FBG with a good strength-toughness balance, because the plastic deformation of the soft FGBA and the retained austenite in the M/A islands can relax the local stress concentration. In our previous paper [22], the blunted secondary microcracks and some internal microvoids in the FGBA grains before crack tips were observed in the fractured Charpy impact sample, indicating the presence of the above local stress relaxation in the steel FBG. Furthermore, the ferrite/pearlite steels FP and MFP, will not suffer any brittle exfoliation since the above stress concentration is very low due to the soft ferrite matrix.

The authors would like to thank Prof. Xiaoping Liu, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Mechanization Sciences (CAAMS), for his kind help during the abrasion test. The authors are also grateful to Mr. Yong Feng, Jinan Iron and Steel Group Co., for providing the high strength ferrite/pearlite steels. References
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5. Conclusions The abrasive wear of a hot-rolled and air-cooled HSLA steel with FGBA /Bg duplex microstructure was investigated