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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X


MOEMA, J.S.; SEMENYA, S.M.  and  JONES, C.. Qualitative and quantitative determination of inclusions in high-carbon steel alloy (Class B) for rail wheel application by SEM/EDS analysis. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2013, vol.113, n.2, pp.73-79. ISSN 2411-9717.

It is well understood that to develop wagon wheels with higher abrasion resistance, fracture toughness, and fatigue resistance, steels with lower amounts of inclusions need to be used. Clean steels are produced with technologies that minimize the amount of inclusions in the microstructure. The demand for cleaner steels is high, and lowering of non-metallic oxide inclusions and controlling their morphology, composition, and size distribution is vital. Reduction of residual impurity elements such as sulphur, phosphorus, hydrogen, nitrogen, and trace elements is essential in the production of cleaner steel. Material cleanliness is vital for fatigue endurance, since oxide inclusions may act as stress concentrators and initiation points for fatigue cracks. To better understand the relationship between the cleanliness and toughness of the 34-inch cast wagon wheels, two samples of different levels of cleanliness were supplied for investigation. This paper presents the results of metallurgical analysis using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy-dispersive spectrometry (EDS), and mechanical tests for the pearlitic high-performance cast rail wagon wheel (identified as Class B) that are currently being used. The Charpy V-notch impact test results for the three samples from wagon wheels were compared. With the aid of SEM/EDS analysis system, non-metallic inclusions in these steels were detected, and it was possible to determine the position, size, shape, and composition of each particle. Alumina and manganese sulphide inclusions could be identified as the dominant inclusion types in the investigated samples. Fracture surface analysis of the Charpy specimen with high inclusions indicated that transgranular cleavage was the predominant fracture mode. Fractography of fracture surfaces of Charpy impact test samples also showed improvement of toughness properties on the clean sample.

Keywords : wagon wheels; steel cleanliness; inclusions; toughness; Charpy; SEM; EDS.

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