Dissecting the Mechanism of Martensitic Transformation via Atomic-Scale Observations

XS Yang and S Sun and XL Wu and E Ma and TY Zhang, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 4, 6141 (2014).

DOI: 10.1038/srep06141

Martensitic transformation plays a pivotal role in the microstructural evolution and plasticity of many engineering materials. However, so far the underlying atomic processes that accomplish the displacive transformation have been obscured by the difficulty in directly observing key microstructural signatures on atomic scale. To resolve this long-standing problem, here we examine an AISI 304 austenitic stainless steel that has a strain/microstructure-gradient induced by surface mechanical attrition, which allowed us to capture in one sample all the key interphase regions generated during the gamma(fcc) -> epsilon(hcp) -> alpha'(bcc) transition, a prototypical case of deformation induced martensitic transformation (DIMT). High-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) observations confirm the crucial role of partial dislocations, and reveal tell-tale features including the lattice rotation of the alpha' martensite inclusion, the transition lattices at the epsilon/alpha' interfaces that cater the shears, and the excess reverse shear-shuffling induced gamma necks in the e martensite plates. These direct observations verify for the first time the 50-year-old Bogers-Burgers-Olson-Cohen (BBOC) model, and enrich our understanding of DIMT mechanisms. Our findings have implications for improved microstructural control in metals and alloys.

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