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On the spheroidized carbide dissolution and elemental partitioning in high carbon bearing steel 100Cr6
We report on the characterization of high carbon bearing steel 100Cr6 using electron microscopy and atom probe tomography in combination with multi-component diffusion simulations. Scanning electron micrographs show that around 14 vol pct spheroidized carbides are formed during soft annealing and only 3 vol pct remain after dissolution into the austenitic matrix through austenitization at 1123 K (850 °C) for 300 seconds. The spheroidized particles are identified as (Fe, Cr)3C by transmission electron microscopy. Atom probe analysis reveals the redistribution and partitioning of the elements involved, i.e., C, Si, Mn, Cr, Fe, in both, the spheroidized carbides and the bainitic matrix in the sample isothermally heat-treated at 773 K (500 °C) after austenitization. Homogeneous distribution of C and a Cr gradient were detected within the spheroidized carbides. Due to its limited diffusivity in (Fe, Cr)3C, Cr exhibits amaximum concentration at the surface of spheroidized carbides (16 at. pct) and decreases gradually from the surface towards the core down to about 2 at. pct. The atom probe results also indicate that the partially dissolved spheroidized carbides during austenitization may serve as nucleation sites for intermediate temperature cementite within bainite, which results in a relatively softer surface and harder core in spheroidized particles. This microstructure may contribute to the good wear resistance and fatigue properties of the steel. Good agreement between DICTRA simulations and experimental composition profiles is obtained by an increase of mobility of the substitutional elements in cementite by a factor of five, compared to the mobility in the database MOBFE2.