Composition analysis of carbide and carbo-nitride precipitates was performed for two Nb-Ti microalloyed steels with yield strengths of 750 and 580 MPa using an atom probe study. In the high-Ti 750 MPa steel, Ti-rich (Ti,Nb)(C,N) and Ti-rich (Ti,Nb)(C) precipitates were observed. In the high-Nb 580 MPa steel, a Ti-rich (Ti,Nb)(C,N) precipitate and (Ti,Nb)(C) clusters were noted. These (Ti,Nb)(C) clusters in the high-Nb 580 MPa steel were smaller than the (Ti,Nb)(C) precipitates in high-Ti 750 MPa steel. In general, a larger number of precipitates were found in the high-Ti 750 MPa steel. This difference in the number density of the precipitates between the two steels is attributed to the difference in Ti content. Combining the atom probe tomography results and thermodynamic calculations, the precipitation sequence in these alloys was inferred to be the following: as the temperature decreases, TiN precipitates out of the solution with successive (Ti,Nb)(C,N) layers of varying composition forming on these Ti-rich precipitates. Once N is depleted from the solution, a second set of (Ti,Nb)(C) precipitates in a similar manner in the matrix and also onto the carbo-nitride phase. This observation is consistent with previous observations in high-strength low-alloy steels containing comparable amounts of only Nb. It was noted that the amount of Nb, Nb/(Nb + Ti), in the precipitates decreased from 0.20 to 0.04 with the size of the precipitate. We believe that this is due to the Nb supersaturation in the matrix when these precipitates nucleate.
The authors would like to acknowledge the Alabama Innovation Grant for their support. UA’s Central Analytical Facility operated under the Office for Sponsored Research is also acknowledged. Ms. Suzanne Kornegay and Mr. Tyler Kaub are acknowledged for their assistance in obtaining STEM–HAADF images and XRD scans, respectively.
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