High-pressure-torsion (HPT) processing introduces a large density of dislocations that form sub-grain boundaries within the refined nano-scale structure, leading to changes in precipitate morphology compared to hot-rolled maraging steels. The impact of such nanostructuring on the deformation and fracture micro-mechanisms is being reported for the first time using in situ characterization techniques along with transmission electron microscopy and atom probe tomography analysis, in this study. Digital image correlation has been used to quantify the full field strain maps in regions of severe strain localization as well as to determine the fracture toughness through critical crack tip opening displacements. It is seen that the phenomenon of planar slip leads to strain softening under uniaxial deformation and to crack branching under a triaxial stress state in hot rolled maraging steels. On the other hand, nano-structuring after HPT processing creates a large number of high angle grain boundaries as dislocation barriers, leading to strain hardening under uniaxial tension and nearly straight crack path with catastrophic fracture under triaxial stress state. Upon overaging, the hot-rolled sample shows signature of transformation induced plasticity under uniaxial tension, which is absent in the HPT processed overaged samples, owing to the finer reverted austenite grains containing higher Ni concentration in the latter. In the overaged fracture test samples of both the hot-rolled and HPT conditions, crack tips show a signature of strain induced transformation of the reverted austenite to martensite, due to the accompanying severe strain gradients. This leads to a higher fracture toughness even while achieving high strengths in the overaged conditions of the nanocrystalline HPT overaged samples. The results presented here will aid in design of suitable heat treatment or microstructure engineering of interface dominated nano-scale maraging steels with improved damage tolerance.
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- atom probe tomography
- digital image correlation
- in situ micromechanical characterisation
- nano-structured maraging steel