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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

Print version ISSN 0038-223X

Abstract

KHAN, Z. Influence of gadolinium on the microstructure and mechanical properties of steel and stainless steel. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2012, vol.112, n.4, pp. 309-321. ISSN 0038-223X.

Iron, in the form of steel and stainless steel, is the most commonly used metal in the world. Plain steels corrode and oxidize easily, while stainless steels exhibit improved corrosion and oxidation resistance. It has been found that rare earth metal (REM) additions, such as cerium and erbium, result in the improvement of the abovementioned properties in iron-containing compounds. Gadolinium is a REM, however, there is very little information available on the influence of gadolinium on the microstructure and mechanical properties of iron-containing compounds. Thus, the purpose of this research project was to determine the influence of gadolinium additions on the microstructure and mechanical properties of mild steel and 316 stainless steel. Ten alloys were produced for the purposes of this research. Five of the alloys had a base composition of mild steel while the remaining five had base composition of 316 stainless steel. The alloys for each of the base composition contained gadolinium additions of 0.1, 0.5, 1.2, and 5 weight per cent. The as-cast and the cold-rolled alloys were analysed. The alloys responded well to the cold-rolling with the exception of the 5 weight per cent gadolinium mild steel and stainless steel alloys. These alloys were extremely brittle and underwent a significant amount of cracking during the cold rolling process. A microstructural analysis of the alloys was conducted using a light optical microscope, while the chemical analysis of the alloys was conducted using energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS). The resulting microstructures and EDS analyses revealed that the gadolinium displayed minimal solubility in the ferrite matrix of the mild steel alloys and minimal solubility in the austenite matrix of the stainless steel alloys. Instead the gadolinium formed as an interdendritic secondary phase in both alloys. EDS analysis revealed that the secondary phase in both alloys was gadolinium-rich. Vickers microhardness tests conducted on both alloys revealed that the alloys were composite-like, with a hard, brittle gadolinium-containing compound dispersed throughout a softer, more ductile matrix. The corrosion resistance of the alloys was determined through potentiodynamic anodic polarization tests. Two solutions were used for the corrosion rate tests: a 0.5 weight per cent NaCl solution and a 0.5 M H2SO4 solution. The results from the mild steel alloys revealed that in both the solutions, the corrosion potentials and the corrosion resistance of the alloys increased with increasing gadolinium concentration up to 1 weight per cent. The corrosion rate test results from the stainless steel alloys revealed that the passivation current density and corrosion resistance of the alloys increased with increasing gadolinium concentration in both solutions. The oxidation resistances of the mild steel and stainless steel alloys were determined through the use of a Netzstch Simultaneous Thermal Analyser. For both the mild steel and the stainless steel alloys, it was found that the oxidation resistance of the alloys increased as the concentration of gadolinium increased when compared to the as-received mild steel and stainless steel samples. This could be due to a strongly adhering gadolinium oxide scale that formed on the surface of the alloys and resulted in the protection of the mild steel and the stainless steel.

Keywords : gadolinium; steel; alloys; microstructures; mechanical properties.

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