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Iron-Carbon Phase Diagram

Jairo Andr´es Coral Campa na Ingenier´ia de Materiales Facutad de Ingenier´ia Qu´imica. Universidad de Am´erica (Dated: October 26, 2010) Iron is by far the least expensive of all the metals and, next to aluminum, the most plentiful. Iron and its many alloys constitutes abot 90 percent of the

world s production of metals. Pure iron itself is used only for a relatively few special applications. Most iron is used in the form of plain-carbon steels, which are alloys of iron and carbon with small amounts of other elements. In this paper the study of iron-carbon (Fe C) alloys starts from their phase diagram. Keywords: Iron, carbon,

alloys, steel, cast iron. 1. ELEMENTAL IRON Very pure iron is produced only in small quantities and is used principally for research purposes. By zone refining, it can be made more than 99.99 percent pure. The yield strength of this pure iron is very low, being about 7500 psi. Slightly less pure iron (99.9 percent) i sproduced commercially

and sufur produce this great increase in the strength of elemental iron. and delta (). manganese. pure iron has a body-centered cubic (BCC) .and has a higher yield strength (10000 to 20000 psi). phosphorus. Pure iron exists in three allotropic forms: alpha (). From room temperature to 910o C. Small quantities of elements such as carbon. gamma ) (.

iron. Nonferromagnetic a iron is stable up tp 910oC and then is transformed into face-centered cubic (FCC) . and is called a iron. iron is transformed back again into the BCC structure as . but on hatingto 768oC (Curie Point). the .crystal structure. a iron is ferromagntc. Upon heating to 1403oC. the ferromagnetism disappears but the crystal structure remanins BCC.

2% C ) and with only minor amounts of other elements are .d iron. The high-temperature BCC iron has a longer cube edge than BCC a iron. which is stable up to the mlting point of pure iron.2% carbon (abbreviated 1. THE Fe Fe3C ALLOY SYSTEM Fe C alloys containing from a trace to about 1.[2] 2. 1535oC.

Fe F3C Phase Diagram The phases present at varios temperatures for vey slowly cooled Fe-C alloys with up to 6.termed plain-carbon steels. However.67% C are shown in the phase diagram of figure 1. the plain-carbon steels will be treated as essentially binary Fe C alloys. This phase diagram is not a true equilibriumdiagram since .1. 2.

Under certain email: jacoralc@unal.co conditions cementite will descompose into the more stable phases of graphite and iron. However. it is for all practical purposes very stable and therefore can be treated as an equilibrium . is not a true equilibrium phase. or cementite as it is called.edu. once Fe3C is formed.the intermetallic compound iron carbide (Fe3C).

austenite. 1 Diagrama de Fases Hiero-Carburo de hierro. cementite (Fe3C).[1] 2. A description of each of these phases follows. and d ferrite. a Ferrite: The solid solution of carbon . FIG. Solid Phases in the Fe Fe3C Phase Diagram The Fe Fe3C phase diagram contains four solid phases: a ferrite.phase diagram.2.

in a iron is termed a ferrite. This phase has a BCC crystal structure. It has a FCC crystal structure and a much greater solid solubility for carbon than a ferrite. and at 0% C it corresponds to a iron. or simply ferrite. The difference in . Austenite: The solid solution of carbon in . iron is designated austenite.

Cementite: The intermetallic Fe-C compound F3C is called cementite. .67% C and 93.the solid solubility of carbon in austenite and a ferrite is the basis for the hardening of most steels. Iron carbide (Fe3C) has negligible solubility limits and contains 6.3% Fe.

It has a BCC crystal structure.Cementite. has an orthorhombic crystal structure with 12 iron atoms and four carbon atoms per unit cell (2). but with a different lattice parameter than a ferrite. d Ferrite: The solid solution of carbon in d iron is called d ferrite. . wich is a hard and brittle compound.

Eutectoid. [3] 2. 2 The atomic structure of cementite (Fe3C). If the carbon content of .FIG. Hypoeutectoid.8% C is termed a eutectoid steel since the eutectoid transformation of austenite to cementite and ferrite occurs at this composition.3. Positions of the carbon atoms are indicated by the small solid spheres. and Hypereutectoid Plain-Carbon Steels A plain-carbon steel containing 0.

Hypereutectoid steels with up to about 1.the steel is less than 0.2 percnt. it is designated a hypoeutectoid steel. the steel becomes very brittle.2% C are produced commercially.8% C. Most steels produced commercially are hypoeutectoid steels. Steels containing more than 0.8% C are called hypereutectoid steels. When the carbon content of the steel goes beyond 1. and thus few .

steels are made with more than 1. other alloying elements are added which increase the strength as well as maintaining ductility and toughness. Steel containing 0. Steel that has very little carbon is called ferrite.8% .2% C.[2] Structural forms of steels are commonly classified by the amount of carbon in steel. In order to increase the strength of steels.

See figure 4. Pearlite is a mixture of ferrite and cementite. pearlite appears as a series of layers. Steel that has a carbon content above 0. It exists at room temperature and is magnetic.8% contains some cementite (figure 3). The . resembling an aerial view of newly plowed fields. Under a microscope.C is called pearlite.

3 Steel can be classified as ferrite.8% C. depending on its percentage of carbon. Cast iron contains more than aproximately 2% carbon. Thus. the ferrite and cementite are .FIG. and the white ridges are ferrite. pearlite or cementite. In steel with 0. the pearlite is made up of alternating layers of ferrite and cementite.[4] black ridges are cementite.

Figure 5 shows the relationship the . and only certain parts of the view will appear as ridges.8% C. it will be a mixture of cemntite and pearlite.sufficiently balanced so the entire microscopic view contains ridges. the steel will b a mixture of ferrite and pearlite. If there is less than 0. If the steel has more than 0.8% C.

[4] 3. A simplified version of the diagram .composition of steel at various percentages of carbon. IRON-CARBON PHASE DIAGRAM (STEELS) The iron-carbon phase diagram is used to identify the different structures of steel that occurs at various temperatures for a given percentage of carbon. 4 This microscope view reveals the pearlite structure of 1095 steel. FIG.

pearlite.is shown in figure 6. austenite or any combination of these . From the iron-carbon phase diagram you can tell what structure iron takes at any given temperature if you know the percentage of carbon present. cementite. The diagrams allows you to determinate whether the steel is ferrite.

the transition to austenite is complete. figure 7.however.[4] fourstructures.6Abasiciron-carbonphasediagram. Thehistoryoftheheattreatmentforthesteel.First.[4] FIG.youmustknowthefollowinginformation: Thetemperatureofsteel.FIG. At the upper transformation temperature. Any steel structure that occurs above the upper transformation line is pure austenite. the transformation of iron to austenite begins. Thepercentageofcarboninsteel. At the lower transformation temperature. upper transformation temperature line. Any steel structure that occurs .5Thischartshowstheeffectofdifferentpercentagesofcarbononthepresenseofferrite .pearliteandcementiteinsteel.

pearlite and cementite occur below the lower transformation temperature line. Iron structures that occur below the lower transformation temperature line are ferrite. 8 Different structures of ferrite. FIG. cementite. of combinations of these structures. pearlite.below the lower transformation line contains no austenite. The material depicted in this diagram not have been previously heat . See figure 8.

This is the 100% ferrite region. all of the carbon .treated or quenched. In this area. See figure 9.[4] In the two triangular areas between the upper and lower transformations temperature lines. a mixture of austenite with either ferrite. To the left of the ferrite and austenite transformation region is a smaller triangular area. pearlite or cementite occurs.

Thematerialdepictedinthisdiagramnothavebeenpreviouslyheattr eatedorquenched. There is not pearlite or cementite.Theupperlineisthe FIG. FIG.[4] Thearetwoimportantlinesshownonaniron-carbonphasediagram.7Abovetheuppertransformationtemperatureline.steeltakesthestructureofaustenit e.[4] .added is dissolved in the iron.pearlite.Thelowerofthetwolinesist helowertransformationtemperatureline.and/orcementiteoccursbetweentheupper andthelowertransformationtemperaturelines.9Amixtureofaustnitewithferrite.

Using an Iron-Carbon Phase Diagram One the best ways to learn to use an iron-carbon phase diagram is to take a sample of steel and follow its journey through the diagram. 1. The following steps illustrate how to read a typical diagram and identify different structures of steel.1.3. Assume that the steel is at room temperature .

it contains no austnite. The material is approximately half ferrite and half pearlite. Next. Since the steel is below th lower transformations temperature. assume the material is heated to above . This is represented by point A en figure 10.4% carbon. Point A is nearly midway between the 100% ferrite limiting line and the 100% pearlite line.and contains 0. 2.

Point B is slightly closer to the 100% ferrite limiting line than it is to the 100% pearlite line. no austenite is present.540oC at poit B. What structure is it now? Since the steel is still below th lower transformation temperature line. This structure contains 50%-51% ferrite and . since the 100% ferrite line has moved slightly to the right.

3. at this temperature. Theoretically. Now assume the material is heated to 720oC at point C. the structure is 52% ferrite and 48% pearlite (point C falls just to the left of the 50% ferrite/pearlite line). Above 720oC. some key changes start to take place. the pearlite changes to austenite. At 720oC.49%-50% pearlite. However. all of the pearlite suddenly .

At 760oC. All of the parlite as changed to austenite. In reality. the steel is at point E. The structuure is now approximately 52% ferrite and 48% austenita.changes to austenite at temperature near 720oC. 4. Next. the change occurs over a small range of temperatures near 720oC. 5. It is . the material is heated to 740oC at point D.

6.closer to the 100% austenite limiting line than it is to the 100% ferrite limiting line. Therefore. the material now contains more austenite than ferrite. at point F (at approximately 790oC). It is approximately 63% austenite and 37% ferrite. Just before the steel reaches the upper transformation temperature line. Perhaps 10% ferrite . it has almost completely changed to austenite.

the steel is now approximately 90% austenite and 10% ferrite. there is no further . It has been completely transformed into austenite. No ferrite or pearlite remains. At 840oC. 7.is left. Thus. the matrial is at point G. 8. and the rest of the material has changed to austenite. As the material is heated higher to 930oC at point H.

assume the steel is slowly cooled back to room temperature. Now. If the material is slowly cooled from 930oC to 840oC to 760oC and all the way down to FIG. 10 This iron-carbon phase diagram shows the journey of 0. figure 11. It remains 100% austenite.4% C steel when it is heated to an elevated .structural change.

temperature. The structures occuring at variious temperatures during cooling are the same that occur when steel is heated (in reverse order). * 48% Ferrite/ 52% pearlite). Thus. it will change back to ferrite and pearlite. The material depicted in this diagram not have been previously heat treated or quenched.[4] 540oC. when the steel is . (63% Ferrite/37% austenite.

FIG. the structure is still 100% austenite. there is again 48% austenite and 52% ferrite. At point E. the steel again is 63% austenite and 37% ferrite. 11 The diagrams follows the path .coole and reaches 840oC. At point D. At point B. the entiresteel structure has changed back to ferrite and pearlite and no austenite remains.

of 0. 2003. The material depicted in this diagram not have been previously heat treated or quenched. 6th Edition John Wiley and Sons Inc. Structure and Properties of Enginering Alloys. William. [2] Smith. William.4% carbon-steel when it is cooled to room temperature. Second Edition McGraw . Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction.[4] References [1] Callister. New York.

[3] http://www.org [4] Warner.Hill Book Co. and Brandt Daniel.wikipedia. J. USA. 1993. Metallurgy Fundamentals. The Goodheart-Willcox Company Inc.C. 2005 .