The austenite to martensite transformation in a semi-austenitic stainless steel containing 17 wt-%Cr, 7 wt-%Ni and 1 wt-%Al was investigated with vibrating sample magnetometry and electron backscatter diffraction. Magnetometry demonstrated that, within experimental accuracy, martensite formation can be suppressed on fast cooling to 77 K as well as on subsequent fast heating to 373 K. Surprisingly, martensite formation was observed during moderate heating from 77 K, instead. Electron backscatter diffraction demonstrated that the morphology of martensite is lath type. The kinetics of the transformation is interpreted in terms of athermal nucleation of lath martensite followed by thermally activated growth. It is anticipated that substantial autocatalytic martensite formation occurs during thermally activated growth. The observation of a retardation of the transformation followed by a new acceleration during slow isochronal (i.e. at constant rate) cooling is interpreted in terms of the combined effect of the strain energy introduced in the system during martensite formation, which thermodynamically and/or mechanically stabilises austenite, and autocatalytic nucleation of martensite.
- Isothermal martensite
- Sub-zero Celsius treatment