Effect of thermomechanical optimisation on the microstructure and the mechanical properties of 9%Cr steel (Grade 91)

Abstract : 9%Cr tempered martensitic steels are currently used in fossil power and in petrochemical plants. Due to attractive properties and manufacturing costs, there are also potential candidates for structural components of new generation nuclear reactors. To optimize their high temperatures mechanical properties (~500-650°C), a thermal-mechanical treatment based on “ausforming” is being considered. It is composed of an austenitization step, followed by warm-rolling of metastable austenite at intermediate temperatures (500-600°C), then quenching and tempering. This study aims at understanding the effects of each of these steps, and particularly the warm-rolling of the metastable austenite, on the resulting microstructure and mechanical properties.After applying a variety of thermal-mechanical treatment conditions, with or without warm rolling, the microstructures were systematically characterized at various scales by SEM, TEM, SANS, and neutron diffraction. Martensite laths are finer and dislocations density is higher in warm-rolled samples compared to thermally treated samples. In some cases, warm-rolled + tempered microstructures were partially recrystallized, showing that tempered martensite keeps a “memory” of previous rolling of metastable austenite. Contrary to what was expected, warm-rolling did not affect precipitation, which is principally governed by austenitizing and tempering temperatures.Warm-rolling lead to a remarkable increase in tensile and creep strength but strongly impairs ductility and significantly increases the ductile-to-brittle transition temperature. Some of the warm-rolled materials are sensitive to intergranular failure at both low (Charpy impact tests) and high temperature (creep tests). Moreover, warm-rolling of metastable austenite does not improve, and even increases cyclic softening. All microstructural features have been quantitatively linked to mechanical properties at 20°C, by applying a structural hardening model that could be reasonably transposed to predict yield and tensile strength at higher temperatures (i.e., 550°C and 650°C).
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Emma Piozin. Effect of thermomechanical optimisation on the microstructure and the mechanical properties of 9%Cr steel (Grade 91). Materials and structures in mechanics [physics.class-ph]. Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris, 2014. English. ⟨NNT : 2014ENMP0049⟩. ⟨tel-01141826⟩

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