AISI 440 stainless steels reinforced with various volume fractions of niobium carbide (NbC) particles of up to 25 vol% were fabricated in-situ using an argon arc furnace and then heat-treated to produce a martensitic matrix. Optical and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) and electron back-scatter diffraction (EBSD) techniques were used to analyze the microstructure, phases and composition of these composites. Interestingly, it was found that Chinese-script NbC could nucleate on existing primary NbC particles creating NbC clusters with complex microstructures. Additionally, hardness tests were used to evaluate viability in mining and mineral processing applications. The increase in NbC content resulted in an overall increase in the hardness of the composites while causing a marginal decrease in the amount of Cr in solid solution with the matrix, which could be a concern for corrosion resistance. The latter was due to the fact that the NbC lattice could dissolve a minor amount of Cr. Thermodynamic simulations also attributed this to a slight increase in M7C3 precipitation. Nonetheless, these novel composites show great promise for applications in wear and corrosive environments.
- Ferrous metal matrix composites
- In-situ carbide formation
- Martensitic stainless steels
- Niobium carbide