Transformation and Precipitation Behavior in Low-Carbon Microalloyed Steels

Toyohisa Shinmiya, Nobuyuki Ishikawa, Shigeru Endo
JFE Steel Corporation, 1 Kokan-cho, Fukuyama, Hiroshima-prf, 721-8510 Japan
Keywords: Low-carbon microalloyed steel, Second phase, Transformation, Precipitation
Abstract
Thermo-mechanical controlled processing (TMCP) is widely applied to manufacture high strength steel plates. In order to
fully utilize the benefit of alloying elements, such as Nb, V and Mo that are usually added to TMCP steels, precipitation
behavior of those elements in accelerated cooling (AcC) steel is investigated and compared with those of quenching and
tempering (Q-T) steels and isothermal heat treated steels after controlled rolling. Cementite morphology that affects
toughness of the materials is also investigated.
In the AcC steels, complex carbonitride was hardly precipitated. However, fine complex carbonitrides including mainly Nb
were precipitated randomly in the bainitic ferrite matrix during tempering treatment in the Q-T steel. Fine complex
carbonitrides were also found in the isothermal heat treated steel, same as the Q-T steel, but the morphology of precipitation
was different; row precipitation was observed. Cementite becomes finer in the Q-T steel when proper tempering treatment
was applied. These results give possibilities of getting materials with higher strength and superior toughness by controlling
the amounts and morphology of fine precipitates and cementite.
Introduction
Recent high strength structural steel plates are produced by applying thermo-mechanical controlled processing (TMCP),
which includes controlled rolling followed by accelerated cooling (AcC) or quenching and tempering (Q-T). Especially,
advance in the accelerated cooling process has enabled higher strength by transformation strengthening under higher cooling
rate [1]. Low carbon steels are usually used for the steels that are required of high strength and higher levels of base metal
toughness and HAZ (Heat Affected Zone) toughness, as well as good weldability. Micro-alloying elements, such as Nb and
Ti, are added for preventing grain coarsening during heating at austenization temperature by pinning effect of carbo-nitride
particles. Nb is also a quite important element in controlled rolling process because solute Nb can increase the re-
crystallization temperature [2] and insure the grain refining of transformed bainite microstructure after controlled rolling and
accelerated cooling. Therefore, many of recent high strength structural steels, such as linepipe steels, have fine bainitic
microstructure and relatively lower C content.
On the other hand, Ti and Nb are the alloying elements commonly used for high strength hot rolled thin steels in order to
improve strength and formability by precipitation hardened ferrite microstructure. Fine carbide precipitates, such as TiC or
(Ti, Mo)C, are formed at the austenite/ferrite interface during slow cooling in the coiling process after hot rolling of the steel
sheet [3,4]. Precipitation hardened technique has been also applied for the structural steel plates produced by quenching and
tempering process [5]. The steels with relatively higher C content, such as 0.1-0.15%C, are reheated and quenched or directly
quenched after hot rolling, then fine precipitate are formed in the martensite or bainite matrix, during tempering process. In
this case, dislocations induced by martensite or bainite transformation can be precipitation sites for fine carbides.
Strength and toughness of steel is strongly affected by its transformation and precipitation behavior, therefore, controlling
those phenomena based on complete understanding of transformation and precipitation mechanisms should be a key issue for
materials designing of high strength steels. As mentioned above, recent high strength linepipe steels has the chemistry with
lower C content and Nb and Ti addition, and is manufactured by applying controlled rolling and accelerated cooling process.
Microstructural characteristics and transformation behavior of recent high strength linepipe steel has been well investigated
[6, 7]. However, its capability for precipitation hardening and its possibility of improving toughness by controlling second
phase morphology has not been well explored. In this paper, change in second phase morphology of the steels with various
TMCP conditions, such as AcC, Q-T and isothermal heat treatment, was investigated. And, in order to fully utilize the benefit
of alloying elements, such as Nb, Mo and V, precipitation behavior of those elements during tempering and isothermal
holding subsequent to controlled rolling and accelerated cooling were examined.
MS&T 2004 Conference Proceedings 11
Experimental Procedure
Materials used for the test
Chemical compositions of the steels used in this study are shown in Table 1. Low-carbon Nb, Ti, Mo and V bearing steel,
which can be applied for high strength linepipe material [8], was used. Steel A and B were used to examine the morphology
of second phase, such as cementite and martensite-austenite constituent (M-A), in recent low-cabon AcC steels. C and Mo
contents, which enhance hardenability, were varied. Steel ingots were prepared by a laboratory vacuum furnace. Those ingots
were reheated at 1100
o
C or 1200
o
C and rolled into the plates with 20mm in thickness, then different cooling or heat treatment
were applied. Fig. 1 shows temperature profile in three different TMCP conditions; (a) accelerated cooling (AcC), (b)
quenching and tempering (Q-T), and (c) isothermal heat treatment. Hot rolling conditions were same for all TMCP conditions.
After the hot rolling, plates were cooled and heat treated in a different way. Fig. 1(a) shows the TMCP condition that is
commonly applied to linepipe steels. Accelerated cooling was applied from 820
o
C and cooling finished temperature was
varied from 300
o
C to 560
o
C to investigate morphological change of second phase using steel A and B, and then the steel plate
was cooled in the air. Fig. 1(b) and (c) are the TMCP conditions for obtaining precipitation hardening. In the Q-T process,
plate was water quenched from 820
o
C into the room temperature, then tempered at 650
o
C. Different heating rate and holding
time were applied in tempering process, in order to investigate the morphological change of cementite by tempering. Heating
rate was controlled by different furnace; heating rate of about 1
o
C/sec and 2
o
C/sec were applied by gas furnace and salt bath,
respectively. Holding time in tempering was also changed using different furnace, holding time of 15minutes and 0 minute
were applied for gas furnace and salt bath, respectively. Fig. 1(c), isothermal heat treatment, is simulating the heat process of
cooling and coiling of steel sheet. After the hot rolling, plates was accelerated cooled down to 625
o
C, then plate was
immediately brought into the gas furnace with the same temperature and held for one hour.
Microstructural observation
Samples for microstructural investigations were taken from the steel plates produced by different TMCP conditions, and
etched by 3% nital acid after polishing the longitudinal section parallel to the rolling direction and normal to the plate surface.
Then microstructure of the steel was observed by optical microscope and scanning electron microscope (SEM). Close
observation was done on the morphology of second phase by SEM. Especially change in the cementite morphology of Q-T
steel during tempering process and comparison with AcC steel is of great interest. As quenched sample was also investigated
paying attention on martensite-austenite constituent (M-A), which can be observed by two-stage electrical etching.
Carbide precipitates were investigated by transmission electron microscope (TEM). Thin film samples were extracted from
the middle thickness portion of the steel plates. As well as the morphology of the precipitates, chemical compositions of the
C Mn Mo Nb V Ti
Steel A 0.048 1.55 0.07 0.031 0.032 0.01
Steel B 0.075 1.55 0.20 0.036 0.052 0.01
Steel C 0.050 1.25 0.10 0.040 0.050 0.01
Table 1: Chemical compositions of the steels used (mass %)
1200
o
C, 2hr
Ar3
820
o
C
650
o
C
15min.
R.T.
650
o
C
Water
Quench
1200
o
C, 2hr
Ar3
820
o
C
650
o
C
15min.
R.T.
650
o
C
Water
Quench
Air Cooling
1100-1200
o
C, 2hr
Ar3
820
o
C
300-560
o
C
AcC
Air Cooling
1100-1200
o
C, 2hr
Ar3
820
o
C
300-560
o
C
AcC
1200
o
C, 2hr
Ar3
820
o
C
1hr.
Air Cooling
625
o
C
AcC
1200
o
C, 2hr
Ar3
820
o
C
1hr.
Air Cooling
625
o
C
AcC
(a) (b) (c)
Fig.1: Schematic temperature profiles in hot rolling and heat treatment of
(a) AcC, (b) Q-T and (c) Isothermal heat treatment
MS&T 2004 Conference Proceedings 12
precipitates were investigated by EDX analysis on the TEM. Quantitative chemical analysis of the precipitates was also
conducted on the Q-T steel and the AcC steel by extract residue method.
Continuous cooling transformation diagram
In order to understand the transformation behavior during cooling process of the steel with different TMCP conditions,
continuous cooling transformation diagrams were investigated. Cylindrical samples with the diameter of 8mm and height of
12mm were taken from the steel ingot, and heating and hot working were applied same as Fig. 1, and then cooled at different
cooling rate, from 0.3
o
C/s to 50
o
C/s. Transformation starting and finishing temperature were detected by dilatometer.
Results and Discussion
Morphology of second phase in recent low-carbon AcC steels
To understand morphology of second phase in recent low-carbon AcC steel, effect of C content and accelerated cooling
finishing temperature on microstructure was examined using steel A and steel B. SEM microphotographs of the steels with
different cooling finishing temperature were shown in Fig.2 and Fig.3. Two different methods of etching were applied in
order to distinguish the type of the second phase, cementite and M-A. Nital etching was applied for the specimens in Fig.2,
and both cementite and M-A are observed as second phase. On the other hand, two stages electrical etching was conducted on
the specimens in Fig.3, showing only M-A as second phase.
Continuous cooling transformation diagrams of the both steels are shown in Fig.4. Cooling rate during accelerated cooling
was about 30
o
C/s, and bainite transformation starting temperature (Bs) is about 550
o
C and 500
o
C for steels A and B,
respectively. In both steels, microstructure is bainite in all cooling finishing temperature conditions, but morphology of grain
is different. Relatively polygonal grain is observed in the steels, which accelerated cooling was stopped above 500
o
C.
On the other hand, morphology of the bainite matrix turns into acicular shape as the cooling finishing temperature was
getting lower for both steels A and B, because shear type transformation was occurred in that condition. It is seen from Fig.3
that in steel A, which is lower C content, second phase is observed along grain boundary mainly. On the other hand, in steel
B, which is higher C content, second phase is observed along grain boundary and lath interface. Relation between volume
fraction of second phase and cooling finishing temperature is shown Fig.5. Volume fraction of cementite was evaluated by
subtracting M-A volume fraction, which can be determined in Fig.3, from total volume fraction of second phase in Fig.2. In
both steels, main second phase is cementite if the cooling finishing temperature is above 400
o
C, and M-A is produced mainly
under 400
o
C. It was found that volume fraction of second phase is larger for steel B that has higher C content.
Fig.2: SEM micrographs of the steels with various cooling finishing temperature, (a) 560
o
C, (b) 410
o
C,
(c) 305
o
C, (d) 520
o
C, (e) 400
o
C and (f) 330
o
C, of steel A, (a)-(c), and steel B, (d)-(f), after nital etching
(b) (c)
(d) (e) (f)
10m
(a)
MS&T 2004 Conference Proceedings 13
10m
Fig.3: SEM micrographs of the steels with various cooling finishing temperature, (a) 560
o
C, (b) 410
o
C, (c) 305
o
C,
(d) 520
o
C, (e) 400
o
C and (f) 330
o
C, of steel A, (a)-(c), and steel B, (d)-(f) after two stage electrical etching;
Fig.4: Continuous cooling transformation diagram; (a) Steel A and (b) Steel B
300
400
500
600
700
800
900
1 10 100 1000
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
o
C
)
Time (sec)
0.3 1 3 10
40
20 Cooling rate (
o
C/s)
F
B
60
P
0.1
300
400
500
600
700
800
900
1 10 100 1000
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
o
C
)
Time (sec)
0.3 1 3 10
40
20 Cooling rate (
o
C/s)
F
B
60
P
0.1
300
400
500
600
700
800
900
1 10 100 1000
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
o
C
)
Time (sec)
0.1
0.3 1 3 10
40
20
Cooling rate (
o
C/s)
F
B
P
O
6
1O
16
2O
26O 3OO 36O 4OO 46O 6OO 66O 6OO
Accelerated cooling finishing temperature (
o
C)
V
o
l
u
m
e

f
r
a
c
t
i
o
n

o
f

s
e
c
o
n
d

p
h
a
s
e

(
%
)
cementite (steel A)
cementite (steel B)
MA (steel A)
MA (steel B)
cemeoLlLe
VA
Fig.5: Relation between volume fraction of second phase and cooling finishing temperature
(b) (c)
(d) (e) (f)
(a)
MS&T 2004 Conference Proceedings 14
Microstructure and cementite morphology of the steel with various TMCP conditions
As mentioned above, second phase behavior in bainite transformation in AcC process, such as type of second phase
(cementite or M-A), volume fraction of second phase and its morphology, is quite sensitive to chemical composition and AcC
condition. It should be quite important for material designing to control the second phase and to obtain favorable morphology
or volume fraction by controlling manufacturing parameter in the AcC process. Another possibility of controlling the second
phase is heat treatment process in TMCP. Therefore, the second phase behavior in different TMCP process, such as
quenching and tempering (Q-T) and isothermal heat treatment, is investigated and compared with the AcC process in this
section.
Steel C was used and different TMCP process was applied as shown Fig.1. Microstructures observed by optical microscope
of the steels with different TMCP conditions, Q-T, AcC and isothermal heat treatment, are shown in Fig.6. Q-T steel and
AcC steel showed bainitic microstructure, and isothermal heat treated steel has ferrite-pearlite microstructure.
SEM microphotographs of the steels are shown in Fig.7. It was found that bainite microstructure of Q-T steel was consisted
of bainitic ferrite and cementite, which is observed along the grain boundary mainly, same as AcC steel. Cementite in Q-T
steel was finer than that of AcC steel. Continuous cooling transformation diagram of steel C is shown in Fig.8. Cooling rate
during quenching and accelerated cooling was about 50
o
C/s and 30
o
C/s, respectively, and bainite transformation occurs for
both quenching and AcC process, resulting in the similar microstructure for both processes. On the other hand, polygonal
ferrite formed in the isothermal heat treated steel, because cooling finishing and holding temperature was higher than bainite
transformation starting temperature.
Fig.6: Microstructure of the steels in various TMCP conditions by optical microscope
(a) AcC, (b) Q-T and (c) isothermal heat treatment
(b) (c) (a)
50m
(b) (c) (a)
5m
Fig.7: SEM micrographs of the steels in various TMCP conditions by optical microscope:
(a) AcC, (b) Q-T and (c) isothermal heat treatment
MS&T 2004 Conference Proceedings 15
It is interesting that very fine cementite was obtained by quenching and tempering. So, in order to understand microstructure
change during tempering process, steels with as quenched condition and tempered in different conditions were prepared.
SEM microphotographs of as quenched steel and the steel tempered by salt bath without isothermal holding after quenching
are shown in Fig.9. In as quenched steel, M-A was dispersed in bainitic-ferrite matrix. Aggregation of cementite was found in
the salt bath tempered steel, which was dissolved by two-stage electrical etching confirming that second phase was cementite
not M-A. On the other hand, in the steel tempered by gas furnace and held isothermally in 15 minutes, the condensation of
cementite was not observed and fine cementite was observed along grain boundary, because solute C in M-A could be diffuse
along grain boundary sufficiently.
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
1 10 100 1000
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
o
C
)
Time (sec)

0.05C-1.25Mn-0.1Mo-0.01Ti-0.04Nb-0.05V
F
P
B
Cooling rate,
o
C/s
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
1 10 100 1000
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
o
C
)
Time (sec)

0.05C-1.25Mn-0.1Mo-0.01Ti-0.04Nb-0.05V
F
P
B
Cooling rate,
o
C/s
Quench
AcC
Isothermal heat treatment
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
1 10 100 1000
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
o
C
)
Time (sec)

0.05C-1.25Mn-0.1Mo-0.01Ti-0.04Nb-0.05V
F
P
B
Cooling rate,
o
C/s
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
1 10 100 1000
T
e
m
p
e
r
a
t
u
r
e

(
o
C
)
Time (sec)

0.05C-1.25Mn-0.1Mo-0.01Ti-0.04Nb-0.05V
F
P
B
Cooling rate,
o
C/s
Quench
AcC
Isothermal heat treatment
Fig.8: Continuous cooling transformation diagram of steel C
Fig.9: SEM micrographs of as Q and Q-T steels; (a) As quenched, (a’) As quenched (two stage electrical etching),
(b) Tempered by salt bath and (c) Tempered by gas furnace
5m
(b) (c)
(a) (a’)
MS&T 2004 Conference Proceedings 16
Carbon quantity as cementite in as quenched, Q-T and AcC steel by extract residue method was shown in Fig.10. It was
found that the amount of cementite that is formed during quenching is quite small and then cementite was formed during
tempering treatment. And the amount of cementite was almost the same for both Q-T steel and AcC steel.
As mentioned above, in AcC steel, accelerated cooling was terminated at the temperature higher than bainite transformation
finishing temperature, and bainite transformation progressed during air-cooling after accelerated cooling. Cementite was
produced in mainly grain boundary along with bainite transformation, because the transformation progress diffusively at high
temperature. On the other hand, microstructure of as quenched was bainitic-ferrite and M-A. It was reported that bainite
transformation is incomplete transformation [9]. So, untransformed austenite, which has higher carbon concentration, was
present at the time of finishing of bainite transformation, then it transformed into M-A, not cementite, during continuous
cooling to room temperature. During tempering process, M-A was dissolved and turned into cementite, resulting in large
increase in cementite, which is shown in Fig.10.
From the above results, it is possible to control cementite morphology by optimizing TMCP condition, for example, proper
tempering process.
Precipitation behavior of the steel with various TMCP conditions
TEM photographs in the middle thickness portion of the steels were shown in Fig.11. Large amount of fine precipitates,
which has the diameter of 5nm or less, was formed in the Q-T steel and isothermal heat treated steel. Fig.12 shows
distribution of precipitate size in Q-T and isothermal heat treated steel. Size of the precipitate was almost the same in both
steels, and average size was about 3nm. In the AcC steel, fine precipitates under 5nm in diameter were hardly found. Only the
large particles of (Nb,Ti)(C,N), which were not dissolved during slab re-heating, was observed occasionally. It was found
that the fine precipitates was complex carbonitride consisted of Nb, Ti, V, and Mo, by EDX analysis. Although size of the
precipitates was similar for Q-T steel and isothermal heat treated steel, precipitation morphology was different. Fine
precipitates were formed randomly in the Q-T steel. On the other hand, row precipitation was observed in the isothermal heat
treated steel.
O
6O
1OO
16O
2OO
26O
3OO
36O
4OO
As Q Q-T
(salt bath)
Q-T
650×15min.
Isothermal
heat treated
AcC
C

a
s

C
e
m
e
n
t
i
t
e

(
p
p
m
)
Fig.10: Carbon quantity as cementite in as quenched, Q-T, isothermal heat treated and AcC steel
by extract residue method
(b) (c) (a)
50nm
Fig.11: Microstructure of the steels with various TMCP condition by TEM;
(a) AcC, (b) Q-T and (c) Isothermal heat treatment
MS&T 2004 Conference Proceedings 17
Quantity of alloying element, Nb, V, Mo, and Te, as carbonitride in as quenched steel, Q-T, isothermal heat treated steel,
steel and AcC steel were investigated by extract residue method, and results are shown in Fig.13. Ratio of the alloying
element as precipitate to total addition was indicated in Fig.13. It was found that the most effective element for precipitation
hardening was Nb. On the other hand, V and Mo content in complex carbonitride were very small. Therefore, it is considered
that Mo and V contribute to transformation hardening mainly. The amount of carbonitride in AcC steel was very small, same
as as quenched steel. In general, precipitation of carbonitride, such as NbC or TiC, occurs in the temperature range from
550
o
C to 700
o
C. However, cooling rate during those temperature ranges was very high for the AcC steel, preventing the
precipitation of carbonitride. In the Q-T steel, fine complex carbonitride including mainly Nb was precipitated randomly in
bainitic-ferrite matrix during tempering treatment. And the quantity of precipitates increased by holding for 15min at 650
o
C,
as indicated in Fig.13. This precipitation behavior can be a so-called secondary hardened. That is to say, dissolved alloying
elements combine with supersaturated carbon in bainitic-ferrite, and fine carbonitride was formed randomly in the matrix. In
the isothermal heat treated steel, fine complex carbonitride was formed, same as the Q-T steel. But the morphology of
precipitation was different; row precipitation was observed in the isothermal heat treated steel. It was reported that fine
carbide precipitates, such as (Ti,Mo)C, are formed at the austenite/ferrite interface during slow cooling in the coiling process
after hot rolling of the steel sheet using IF steel, which is 0.05%C-0.2%Mo-0.08%Ti [4]. Although the content of carbonitride
forming elements were small comparing to the reported steels, precipitation can occur in the austenite/ferrite interface during
isothermal heat treatment. As a result of above investigation, recent low-carbon steel for high strength linepipe has sufficient
capability of precipitation hardening when quenching and tempering or isothermal heat treatment are applied.
0
20
40
60
80
100
1 2 3 4 5 6
N
u
m
b
e
r
Diameter of the precipitate (nm)
N=136
Ave.=2.8nm
Isothermal
0
20
40
60
80
100
1 2 3 4 5 6
N
u
m
b
e
r
Diameter of the precipitate (nm)
N=88
Ave.=2.9nm
Q+T (a) Q-T (b) Isothermal heat treatment
0
20
40
60
80
100
1 2 3 4 5 6
N
u
m
b
e
r
Diameter of the precipitate (nm)
N=136
Ave.=2.8nm
Isothermal
0
20
40
60
80
100
1 2 3 4 5 6
N
u
m
b
e
r
Diameter of the precipitate (nm)
N=88
Ave.=2.9nm
Q+T (a) Q-T (b) Isothermal heat treatment
Fig.12: Distribution of precipitate size in Q-T and isothermal holding steel; (a) Q-T and (b) Isothermal holding
Fig.13: Alloying element quantity as carbonitride in as quenched, Q-T steel and AcC steel by extract residue method;
(a) Nb, (b)V, (c) Mo and (d) Ti
O
6O
1OO
16O
2OO
26O
3OO
As Q Q-T
(salt bath)
Q-T
650×15min.
Isothermal
heat treated
AcC
N
b

a
s

C
a
r
b
i
d
e

(
p
p
m
)
Nb cooLeoL . 4OOppm
, 17.6ª )
, 38.Oª )
, 67.6ª )
, 6O.Oª )
, 2O.8ª )
Ac O O+1
,calL baLH)
O+1
,66Ox16mlo.)
|coLHermal AcC
,a) Nb
O
6O
1OO
16O
2OO
26O
3OO
As Q Q-T
(salt bath)
Q-T
650×15min.
Isothermal
heat treated
AcC
M
o

a
s

C
a
r
b
i
d
e

(
p
p
m
)
Vo cooLeoL . 1OOOppm
, 2.1ª )
, 6.7ª )
, 1O.9ª )
, 8.Oª )
, 1.4ª )
Ac O O+1
,calL baLH)
O+1
,66Ox16mlo.)
|coLHermal AcC
,c) Vo
O
6O
1OO
16O
2OO
26O
3OO
As Q Q-T
(salt bath)
Q-T
650×15min.
Isothermal
heat treated
AcC
V

a
s

C
a
r
b
i
d
e

(
p
p
m
)
,b) V
, O.4ª )
, 6.4ª )
, 12.2ª )
, 1O.Oª )
, 1.Oª )
Ac O O+1
,calL baLH)
O+1
,66Ox16mlo.)
|coLHermal AcC
V cooLeoL . 6OOppm
, ) raLlo of cooLeoL of alloylog elemeoL
ac preclplLaLe Lo lLc LoLal addlLloo
O
6O
1OO
16O
2OO
26O
3OO
As Q Q-T
(salt bath)
Q-T
650×15min.
Isothermal
heat treated
AcC
T
i

a
s

C
a
r
b
i
d
e

(
p
p
m
)
,d) 1l
, 14.Oª ) , 19.Oª )
, 31.Oª )
, 2O.Oª ) , 18.Oª )
Ac O O+1
,calL baLH)
O+1
,66Ox16mlo.)
|coLHermal AcC
1l cooLeoL . 1OOppm
MS&T 2004 Conference Proceedings 18
Strengthening mechanisms for different TMCP conditions
As discussed above, the steels produced with different process, AcC, Q-T and isothermal heat treatment, have different type
of microstructure, and strength mechanisms should be different. Tensile properties of those steels were shown in Table 2. Q-
T steel has the highest tensile strength, and the tensile strength of isothermal heat treated steel was almost the same as that of
AcC steel. It is interesting to note that AcC steel and isothermal heat treated steel has totally different microstructure, but the
strength is almost the same. This means the strengthening mechanisms are different for those steels. Based on the present
investigation, the strengthening mechanism of each steel was schematically illustrated in Fig.14. Isothermal heat treated steel
is strengthened mainly by precipitation hardening, while transformation hardening is the main mechanism for the AcC steel.
Even though the transformation hardening is reduced by tempering to a some degree, Q-T steel is strengthened both
precipitation and transformation hardening, resulting in highest strength among three steels. Although the further
investigation, such as quantitative analysis of fine precipitation morphology or the effect of heat treatment temperature, is
necessary for the complete understanding of metallurgical and mechanical behavior, above-mentioned analysis can give the
important guideline for materials designing for high strength steels.
TMCP condition YS TS YR
(N/mm
2
) (N/mm
2
) (%)
Q+T 596 654 91.1
AcC 540 613 88.1
Isothermal heat treatment 523 591 88.5
Table 2 Tensile properties of the steels with various TMCP conditions
AcC Q+T IT
Precipitation
Transformation
Matrix
TMCP condition
Microstructure
B
+ B
+ + MX P
+ MX
Fig.14: Schematic illustration of the strengthening mechanism for the steel with various TMCP conditions.
(
B
:bainitic ferrite, :cementite, MX:carbonitride)
MS&T 2004 Conference Proceedings 19
Conclusions
(1) In the AcC steels, two kinds of second phases, such as cementite and M-A, were observed. Main second phase is
cementite if the steel was finished accelerated cooling above 400
o
C, and M-A is formed mainly when the cooling
finishing temperature wasunder 400
o
C. It was found that volume fraction of second phase is larger for steel B that has
higher C content.
(2) Q-T steel and AcC steel have similar microstructure, bainitic ferrite and cementite. The amount of cementite was almost
the same in both steel, but fine cementite was obtained by tempering treatment using a gas furnace in Q-T steel.
(3) Complex carbonitride with the size of 5nm or less including Nb mainly was precipitated in Q-T steel and isothermal heat
treated steel. Precipitation formation of complex carbonitride was random in Q-T steel, while row precipitation was
observed in isothermal heat treated steel.
(4) The most effective element for precipitation hardening was Nb, and Mo and V contribute to transformation hardening
mainly. Recent linepipe steel, which is low-carbon microalloyed steel, has sufficient capability of precipitation hardening.
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