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Materials Science and Engineering A 532 (2012) 2125

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Materials Science and Engineering A
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Affect of the tempering temperature on the microstructure and mechanical
properties of dual phase steels
A. Anazadeh Sayed

, Sh. Kheirandish
Material and Metallurgy Department, Iran University of Science and Technology, Tehran, Iran
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 16 May 2011
Received in revised form7 September 2011
Accepted 13 October 2011
Available online 24 October 2011
Dual phase steels
Intercritical annealing
Continuous yielding
a b s t r a c t
In this study, affect of tempering temperature on the microstructure and mechanical properties of dual
phase steels was studied. The CMn steel specimens were put under intercritical annealing treatment
(ICT) at 760

C and quenched in water to obtain 31% martensite and then tempered within the range of

C. The tempering changes the mechanical properties of the dual phase steels through inuenc-
ing both martensite and dislocation density of ferrite. Low tempering temperature results in formation
of ne carbides in the martensite phase. Density of carbides increases and then carbon concentration of
martensite decreases as tempering temperature increases. The continuous yield behavior of dual phase
steel remains until tempering up to 300

C. At tempering temperatures above 300

C the discontinuous
yielding and upperlower yield points return which means degradation in mechanical properties. Yield
strength increases by tempering up to 200

C slightly, but it decreases at higher tempering temperatures.

Ultimate tensile strength does not change at tempering temperature up to 200

C considerably, but it
decreases at higher tempering temperatures. Uniform elongation and total elongation increased slightly
with increasing tempering time. Hardness of martensite decreases after tempering but this is not the case
with ferrite resulting in a decreased hardness difference between martensite and ferrite. According to
obtained results it seems that the tempering temperatures lower than 300

C (1 h) is suitable for attaining

continuous yielding and optimum strength and ductility.
2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Dual phase steels have unique mechanical properties such
as combination of low-yield strength and high ultimate tensile
strength, high strain hardening exponent accompanied with high
uniform elongation and a continuous yielding behavior (without
a sharp yield point in their stress/strain curves) [1,2]. These fea-
tures cause dual phase steels to have excellent formability and
enable them to be a suitable material for automotive applications
[2]. These properties are achieved as a result of a dispersion of
2030%hardmartensiteparticles inasoft andductileferritic matrix
[3]. Dual phase microstructures can be developed in all low-carbon
steels by intercritical annealing treatment (ICT) inausteniteferrite
region and cooling it rapidly to roomtemperature to transformthe
austenite to martensite. Although Dual phase steels are intended
for use without any tempering treatment, they may be heated to
high temperatures as in galvanizing treatment [4]. The tempera-
ture response of dual phase steels has drawnconsiderable attention
[4,5]. Mechanical properties of dual phase steels canbe modied by

Corresponding author. Tel.: +98 9119706319; fax: +98 1712334910.

E-mail addresses: Sayed), (Sh. Kheirandish).
changing their microstructure. Tempering has been used success-
fully to improve the strength/elongation ratio of dual phase steels
(microalloy free) after intercritical annealing [6,7]. Chang [8] stud-
ied that retained austenite affects the tempering characteristics of
dual phase steels and he reported that tempering in low temper-
atures does not affect the amount of retained austenite. However,
with increasing the tempering temperature, retained austenite is
reduced by transformation of austenite to bainite [9,10]. Forma-
tion of martensite results in residual stresses and high dislocation
density in ferrite (especially in the region surrounding the marten-
site islands) and tempering can reduce these residual stresses
Rashid [12] has investigated the tempering characteristics of
vanadiumcontaining dual phase steels andstudiedmicrostructural
changes in ferrite, martensite and retained austenite and reported
that the tempering characteristics of different dual phase steels is
variable and it is due to chemical composition, ferrite/martensite
ratio, retained austenite and different processing parameters. The
microstructure and mechanical properties of dual phase steels
are predominantly affected by tempering temperature rather than
other process parameters [12]. Samuel [13] has reported that
the precipitates in the steel change to different types depending
on tempering temperature and it would affect the mechanical
properties. -Carbide starts to precipitate when the tempering
0921-5093/$ see front matter 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
22 A.A. Sayed, Sh. Kheirandish / Materials Science and Engineering A 532 (2012) 2125
temperature increases and the martensite becomes less tetragonal,
meanwhile the residual stresses and dislocation density decrease
[14]. With more increase in tempering temperature, -carbides are
replaced with cementite and the martensite loses its tetragonality
[14]. Yield behavior of plain carbon and low alloy steels (as-
received) is discontinuous. Conventional HSLA steels, which have a
ferritepearlitecarbonitride precipitate structure, have extensive
yieldplateaus, as initiallytheycontainednofree dislocations [1,15].
Pinning of dislocation through interstitial atoms during a short
cycle causes discontinuous yielding [3]. Discontinuous yielding of
these steels disappears through quenching from austeniteferrite
zone, forming a martensiteferrite microstructure. It has been
reported that after a high temperature tempering, discontinuous
yielding reoccurs [16]. Although, both uniform and post-uniform
elongations increase due to tempering, as it is expected from
decrease in the tensile strength, increase rate in uniform elonga-
tionwas muchsmaller thanthat of the post-uniformelongation[9].
During post-uniform elongation, voids are formed in the necked
region of the specimen at the martensiteferrite interfaces because
of decohesion or by cracking of the martensite particles during
plastic straining which nally coalesce and cause fracture [9].
The present work has been aimed to evaluate the mechanical
properties and microstructures of dual phase steel subjected to
intercritical heat treatment and tempering.
2. Experimental procedures
Hot-rolled steel bar 11mm in diameter, containing 0.21% C,
1.18% Mn, 0.26% Si, 0.18% Cr, 0.2% Cu, 0.12% Ni, 0.03% P, 0.03% S
was used. Tensile specimens of 15.5mm gage length and 4.5mm
gagediameter weresubjectedtointercritical annealingat 760

1h in a salt bath furnace using 80% BaCl
and 20% NaCl. The sam-
ples were subsequently quenched in 5% brine solution to produce
dual-phase microstructure. The specimens were then tempered in
the range of 100600 for 0.5, 1 or 2h in a salt bath furnace. For
every condition three sample have been conducted and the mean
value of the tests presentedinthe gures. Tensile tests were carried
out in an Instron machine and a Philips PSEM500 electron micro-
scope was used to study microstructures of the specimens. Optical
microscopic observations were carried out after etching the speci-
mens with 2% nital. Microhardness measurements were conducted
on polished surface of the same specimens using loads ranging
between 15 and 25gf.
All results in triplicate are expressed as meanstandard devi-
ation (SD) and analyzed using one-way analysis of variance with a
signicance level of p<0.05 (n=3 for each group).
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Microstructure
In the previous works that have been conducted in this area,
all the authors agreed that tempering time of 1h is best for this
tempering temperature, so in this study, we focused on tempering
time of 1h. Tempering temperatures below200

C do not have sig-

nicant effect on microstructure and mechanical properties of dual
phase steels on the otherwise tempering temperatures higher than

C affect dual phase steel more than necessary and it declines

mechanical properties of dual phase steels so in this paper we
focused on tempering temperature between 200 and 500

By intercritical annealing of CMn steel at 760

C and sub-
sequent quenching, the ferriticmartensitic microstructure was
obtained. Fig. 1 shows the optical micrograph of this microstruc-
ture. The volume fraction of martensite after annealing at 760

is about 31%. Fig. 2 shows the SEM micrograph of this dual phase
Fig. 1. Optical micrograph of dual phase steel, quenched after annealing at 760

microstructure in which martensite islands of 18m size can be
observed in the ferrite matrix.
The quenched specimens were then tempered at different
temperatures. The microstructures of specimens tempered at

C for 1h have been shown in Fig. 3.

The microstructure of the specimen tempered at 200

(Fig. 3(a)) differs slightly from the non-tempered sample. Once
the tempering temperature increases to 400

C (Fig. 3(b)), the

microstructure of the tempered martensite is clearly different from
that of the non-tempered sample (Fig. 2). Fig. 3(b) shows that
the specimen tempered at 400

C consists of ferrite and tempered

martensite. A further increase in the tempering temperature does
not show any signicant difference in microstructure, using the
In general, tempering reactions in dual phase steels are a com-
bination of those effects expected for each of the individual phases.
Thus, one can expect the recovery of the defect structure in the
martensite phase, precipitation of carbides and transformation of
the retained austenite. Besides, it causes carbon segregation into
dislocations and precipitation of carbides in the ferrite phase. In
addition, there are synergistic effects that can be attributed to the
presence of both phases. For instance, formation of martensite gen-
erates residual stresses and a high dislocation density in the ferrite,
especially near the martensite/ferrite interface [14]. Carbon segre-
gation into these dislocations and the relief of the residual stresses
by the volume contraction of the martensite phase during tem-
pering are important parts of tempering process [17]. In Fig. 2
(non-tempered sample) pure martensite islands can be obviously
Fig. 2. SEM micrograph of As-quenched specimens (intercritical temperature:

C; holding time: 0.5h, quenched in water).

A.A. Sayed, Sh. Kheirandish / Materials Science and Engineering A 532 (2012) 2125 23
Fig. 3. (a) SEMmicrograph of specimens tempered for 1h at 200

C. (b) SEMmicrograph of specimens tempered for l h at 400

C. (c) SEMmicrograph of specimens tempered

for 1h at 500

C. (d) SEMmicrograph of specimens tempered for 1h at 600

observed but when the dual phase steel was subsequently tem-
pered at 500

C (Fig. 3(c)), the surfaces of martensite islands were

covered with ne white particles. Because of the diffusion of the
carbon and formation of faceted carbides, the edges of martensite
islands havebeensmoothed. Whenthetemperingtemperaturewas
increased to 600

C (Fig. 3(d)) the martensite phase transformed to

cementite and ferrite totally.
3.2. Tensile properties and their correlation with microstructural
In order to study the mechanical properties of tempered dual
phase steels, tensiontests were conducted for samples tempered at
different temperatures. The strainstress curves of samples, before,
and after tempering at different temperatures are shown in Fig. 4.
The continuous yielding was observed even after tempering at

C, but the sharp yielding point was appeared by higher tem-

pering temperatures. As can be seen in Fig. 4, as the quenched
sample has a smooth stressstrain curve, because there are many
unpinned dislocations in the ferrite. These dislocations have been
produced by means of the volume change that occurs during trans-
formation of the austenite to martensite [1,15]. For the samples
tempered at rather high tempering temperature, the discontinu-
ous yielding has returned. In fact, the content of interstitial atoms
in intergrains is not sufcient for pinning of dislocations, but at
higher tempering temperatures the lack of interstitial atoms can be
compensated by long range diffusion of these atoms frominterior
parts of the grains which results in reoccurrence of discontinuous
Figs. 5 and 6 show the effect of tempering temperature on the
strength and elongation of dual phase steel samples. As can be seen
in Fig. 5, after tempering, the yield strength increased slightly at
temperatures up to 200

C but it decreased at temperatures above


C. This increase is probably the result of the volume contrac-

tion in the ferrite particles which accompanies tempering and the
rearrangement of dislocations inthe ferrite [16]. This strengthening
can be attributed to the excess carbon in the solution which dif-
fuses to pin the free dislocations in the ferrite and/or formne iron
carbides [3]. By increasing the temperature, most of the residual
Fig. 4. Engineering stress strain curves of samples intercritically annealed at 760

quenched, and then tempered at 200, 300, 400 and 600

24 A.A. Sayed, Sh. Kheirandish / Materials Science and Engineering A 532 (2012) 2125
Fig. 5. Effect of temperingtemperatureontheyieldstrengthandtheultimatetensile
strength (*p<0.05).
stresses relieved, the martensite phase was softenedand, hence the
yield strength decreased. The matrix structures of the tempered
martensite transformed to body center cubic (b.c.c.) and carbon
concentration of the matrix approached that of the ferrite. Further-
more, the strength difference between ferrite and the tempered
martensite was reduced. However further reduction in the carbon
content of the tempered martensite is not signicant at tempering
temperatures higher than 400

C [14]. Figs. 5 and 6 showthat after

tempering, the ultimate tensile strengthdecreases anduniformand
total elongation increase. For example, before tempering, the ulti-
mate tensile strength was 922MPa, the uniform elongation was
approximately 17% and total elongation was 20%, but after temper-
ing at 600

C, the UTS changed to 566MPa while uniformand total

elongation increased to approximate 19% and 25%, respectively.
When the tempering temperature raises from 300

C the cemen-
tite in the tempered martensite coarsens and spherodises. With an
increase inthe tempering temperature, the carbonconcentrationof
the matrix inthe temperedmartensite still decreases due tothe dif-
fusion of carbon atoms into cementite [18]. Therefore, the strength
of the tempered martensite decreases and its ductility increases.
The effects of tempering on microhardness of ferrite and
martensite are shown in Fig. 7. As it can be observed, hardness of
martensite reduces signicantly, but this reduction occurs slightly
for ferrite phase; therefore the hardness difference between the
ferrite and martensite phase decreases. Softening of martensite
reduces the strength of the samples, because the strength of dual
phase steel depends mostly on the strength of martensite. While
ductility of martensite increases slightly, it does not result in a sig-
nicant increase in ductility of dual phase steel. It must be noted
that the main source of good ductility in dual phase steels is the
Fig. 6. Effect of tempering temperature on the uniform and total elongation
Fig. 7. Effect of tempering temperature on microhardness of martensite and ferrite
(*p <0.05).
Fig. 8. Product of ultimate tensile strength and uniformelongation versus temper-
ing temperature (*p<0.05).
presence of soft ferrite so only the volume percentage of ferrite
controls the ductility of dual phase steels.
To achieve the best mechanical characteristics, product of ulti-
mate tensile strength and uniform elongation versus tempering
temperature has been plotted in Fig. 8. As can be seen, temper-
ing at temperatures below300

C causes optimumcombination of
strength and elongation.
4. Conclusion
1. Yield behavior of tempered dual phase steel is continuous until
tempering temperature reaches 300

C and discontinuous yield-

ing and upperlower yield points return with further increase in
tempering temperature.
2. After tempering in low temperature (200

C) yield strength
increases slightly. Further increase in the tempering tempera-
ture causes yield strength to decrease. Ultimate strength does
not change until tempering temperature of 200

C and further
increase in tempering temperature decreases ultimate strength.
Tempering does not change the strength and ductility of ferrite
efciently. Therefore, only the percentage of ferrite is the main
determinant of the ductility of dual phase steels.
If the continuous yielding andoptimumof strengthandductility
are to be considered, tempering temperatures less than 300

C (1h)
may be recommended.
A.A. Sayed, Sh. Kheirandish / Materials Science and Engineering A 532 (2012) 2125 25
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