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Chapter 5 Plain Carbon Steels


Chapter Objectives
List the composition of plain carbon steels Outline the various phases of crystalline structures of metals Recognize the various types of phases shown in the iron-carbon equilibrium diagram Identify the temperature ranges and structures for the slow cooling of various types of ironcarbon steels Effect of carbon on properties of carbon steels Classification and uses of plain carbon steels

Composition of steel
Plain carbon steels contain mainly iron (Fe) and carbon (C) up to 2.0% They contain the following elements: (a) Manganese (up to 1.0%): - helps to reduce the sulphur content - increases the strength and hardness of steel (b) Phosphorous (not to exceed 0.05%): - impurity carried over from iron ore - causes the steel to be brittle

Composition of steel contd

(c) Sulphur (not to exceed 0.05%): - impurity from iron ore - combines with Fe to form iron sulphide - causes steel to be brittle For high quality steels, max. allowable S and P contents to be less than 0.04%

Structure Of Plain Carbon Steels

When metals solidify from molten to solid state, atoms align themselves in an orderly pattern or space lattice that forms crystals (grain structure) 3 main types of crystal lattice structure: (i) body centered cubic (BCC), (ii) face centred cubic (FCC) and (iii) hexagonal close-packed (HCP) Iron is an allotropic material It can exist in more than one crystal lattice structure

Structure Of Plain Carbon Steels contd




Crystal Lattice Structures


Structure Of Plain Carbon Steels contd

Below 910oC iron forms body centred cubic (BCC) crystals, refer to as alpha () iron From 910oC to 1400oC it forms face centred cubic (FCC) crystals, refer to as gamma ( ) iron Above 14000C to 1538oC it reverts to BCC crystals, refers as delta () iron

Structure Of Plain Carbon Steels contd

iron will dissolve up to 2.0%C at a temperature of 1147oC iron will dissolve up to 0.02%C at a temperature of 723oC and 0.006%C at room temperature

Iron-Carbon Equilibrium Diagram

Allotropic changes that take place in Fe is influenced by carbon As solubility of carbon in iron alters, changes in steel structure will occur on heating & cooling through transformation Fe-C equilibrium diagram will temp. show transformations in very slow cooling equilibrium conditions

Features Of Iron-Carbon Equilibrium Diagram

Upper critical temperature (line AEB) - Called A3 line for hypoeutectoid steels. - Called Acm line for hypereutectoid steels Lower critical temperature (723 oC line) - Called the A1 line and is constant at 723 oC Eutectoid point (Point E)


Upper Critical Temperature (UCT)

For hypoeutectoid steels Line AE on the ironcarbon diagram. For hypereutectoid steels Line EB on the ironequilibrium diagram. If temperature is above this line, the steel will be wholly austenitic. For hypoeutectoid steels, if temperature is between the A3 line and 723oC line phases are austenite and ferrite. For hypereutectoid steels, if temperature is between the Acm line and 723oC line the phases will be austenite and cementite.

Lower Critical Temperature (LCT)

This line is also called the A1 line and it is constant at 723oC. This is the temperature at which austenite will transform into pearlite upon cooling under equilibrium condition (extremely slow cooling).


Eutectoid Point
This is the point at which the carbon composition is 0.8%. When the temperature falls below 723oC, the austenite transforms almost immediately to pearlite. The composition of steel at this point is called eutectoid composition .


Iron-carbon equilibrium diagram contd

Types of phases in carbon steels:
(a) CEMENTITE (Iron carbide): - excess of C combines with Fe to form Fe 3C - contains 6.67%C. - hardest and most brittle (b) AUSTENITE ( iron): - contains up to a max. of 2.0%C at 1147 0C - it has a face-centred cubic structure - non-magnetic, soft and ductile (c) FERRITE ( iron): - contains up to a max. of 0.02%C at 723oC, falling to 0.006%C at 20oC - a weak solution of carbon in BCC iron. Soft, ductile, low strength and magnetic (up to 770 oC)


Iron-carbon equilibrium diagram contd

(d) PEARLITE: - eutectoid mixture containing 0.8%C occurs at 723oC - has lamellar structure of ferrite and cementite - hardness between hard cementite and soft ferrite Note: A lamellar structure is one that consists of alternate layers of ferrite and cementite


Iron-carbon equilibrium diagram contd

Steels can be differentiated into three types when referring to the iron-carbon phase diagram: (i) Hypo-eutectoid steels (ii) Hyper-eutectoid steels (iii) Eutectoid steels


Iron-carbon equilibrium diagram contd

Hypo-eutectoid Steels
These steels contain less than 0.8% carbon. - At room temperature, the microstructures consist of ferrite and pearlite. - Above the upper critical temperature , the steel is wholly austenitic. - Between upper critical temperature and 723 oC, the phases are ferrite and austenite. - Below 723oC, the structures are ferrite and pearlite.

Iron-carbon equilibrium diagram contd

Hyper-eutectoid Steels These steels contain more than 0.8% carbon . At room temperature , the microstructure consists of pearlite and cementite. Above upper critical temperature , the steel is wholly austenitic. Between upper critical temperature and o 723 C, the phases are austenite and cementite. Below 723oC, the structures are pearlite and cementite.

Iron-carbon equilibrium diagram contd

These steels contain 0.8% carbon. - Microstructure is mainly pearlite at room temperature. - At a temperature above eutectoid temperature (723oC), the steel is wholly austenitic. - The transformation is almost immediate from austenite to pearlite.


CASE 1: Steel containing 0.4%C (hypo eutectoid steel)

On cooling from 1600 0C: 1) At Q1 it begins to solidify at 15000C 2) At S1 solidification is complete at 14500C Structure of uniform austenite 3) At U1, Upper Critical Temp. at about 8250C Ferrite will start to grow at grain boundaries of austenite.Bulk of carbon remains in austenite 4) Just above 723 0C (Lower Critical Temp.): Formation of Austenite and Ferrite complete 5) At 7230C, austenite will form layers of ferrite and cementite called pearlite 6) Below 7230C, final structure is ferrite and pearlite


CASE 2: Steel containing 0.8%C (Eutectoid Steel)

1) 2) 3) At Q2, it begins to solidify as austenite at 1490 0C At S2, solidification complete at 1410 0C Upper critical and lower critical temperatures coincide at E (723 0C): No change in austenite structure Below E (723 0C) austenite will transform to final structure of pearlite



CASE 3: Steel containing 1.2%C(Hyper eutectoid steel)

1) At Q3, it begins to solidify by
depositing dendrites (type of crystal growth) of austenite at 14800C At S3, solidification complete at 13500C. Structure of uniform austenite forms At U3, upper critical temp.(9000C), cementite forms in needle like crystals, mainly at grain boundaries of austenite At 7230C, remaining austenite will reduce to 0.8%C Below 7230C, remaining austenite changes to final structure of pearlite and cementite





Effect Of Carbon On Properties Of Plain Carbon Steels Increase the amount of carbon in medium carbon steels promotes the formation of cementite This results in an increased presence of pearlite, making such steels stronger, tougher and harder but less ductile

Uses Of Plain Carbon Steels

Plain carbon steels can be classified according to their carbon contents along with their uses as follows: