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Materials Science and Engineering, 18 (1975) 193--198

© Elsevier Sequoia S.A., Lausanne -- Printed in The Netherlands

A Microstructural Study of Massive Transformations in the Fe--Ni System

T.B. M A S S A L S K I , J.H. P E R E P E Z K O and J. J A K L O V S K Y *

Metal Physics Laboratory, Mellon Institute of Science, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15213 (U.S.A.)

(Received July 19, 1974)

SUMMARY lowered, and can become arrested at tempera-

tures as high as 600°C. In practice, therefore,
The formation of the b.c.c, a phase from the two-phase equilibrium separation into the
the f.c.c. 7 phase by the process of a massive a and 7 phases is never completed. The form
transformation has been studied in the Fe - Ni of the phase diagram shown in Fig. 1 is that
system over a range of composition and cool- proposed by Goldstein and Ogilvie [ 1 ]. The
ing rates. The massive am product phase has extent of the a phase boundary, and its retro-
been observed metallographically in alloys grade nature, have been well established b y
containing up to 8.7 at .% Ni. Microprobe careful studies of metallic meteorites and
studies have confirmed that composition invari- other conclusive evidence. In addition to the
ance is maintained even in a two-phase region equilibrium phase separation the 7 i~hase can
b e y o n d the retrograde a/(a + 7) phase bound- also transform b y composition-invariant pro-
ary. In low Ni alloys the rate of transformation cesses, t w o of which are martensitic and one
was fast enough to form a completely massive is massive. In the range of composition up to
product at a cooling rate of a b o u t 3000 deg about 4 at.% Ni the occurrence of the massive
C/sec. For alloys with about 8 at.% Ni a cooling transformation is well documented [2]. The
rate of a b o u t 7 deg C/sec is needed to produce 7 -* a massive transformation is accomplished
even a small a m o u n t of the massive product. by a relatively rapid movement of incoherent,
The occurrence of the massive transformation high energy, boundaries of the nucleated a
in a two-phase field suggests that local equili- phase, which is of the same composition as that
brium is n o t established at the transformation of the ~/phase matrix from which it forms. The
interfaces during the transformation. process is controlled by diffusion at the trans-
formation interfaces. The resulting microstruc-

9°° X
The high temperature f.c.c. 7 phase in Fe- 800
I Observed Limit of
I \ \ ossi e troo.,.... ,,oo

rich Fe - Ni alloys can transform on cooling
700 \ " \ aTA, O/oNi
to the b.c.c, a phase b y a number of different
transformation mechanisms. Numerous phase
diagram determinations, as well as information
obtained f r o m the study of meteorites, have ~"50O 1
shown that u p o n very slow cooling the 7 phase
400 //I
undergoes an equilibrium solute segregation
in the (a + 7) two-phase field. In alloys whose 300 I
solute content exceeds a few at.% Ni this pro- lllJ jjiIi I
0 IO 210 50 4(3 50
cess becomes very slow as the temperature is Atomic % Nickel

Fig. 1. Phase diagram for the Fe - Ni system covering

* Present address: Alcoa Technical Center, Surface the composition range of interest. Also shown is the
Chemistry Division,N e w Kensington, Pa. 15068, U.S.A. observed limit of massive transformation..

ture has characteristic features of a massive Because of the clearly established retrograde
transformation, revealing approximately equi- boundary in the Fe - Ni system, it became of
axed am grains* surrounded by boundaries interest to determine if identifiable massive
that consist of both planar and curved portions. transformation products can be obtained also
In transmission electron micrographs [2] the in this system, beyond the retrograde a phase
massive phase exhibits a low, and random, den- solubility limit of approximately 7 at.% Ni.
sity of dislocations as may be expected from a
thermally activated and diffusion-controlled
At compositions exceeding approximately
4 at.% Ni, up to about 25 at.% Ni, the decom- The range of compositions studied in the
position on cooling is known to occur by the present work was approximately between 1.9
martensitic process, the nature of which changes and 9.7 at.% Ni. Alloys containing 5.0, 5.5,
from a lath-type martensite to an acicular- or 6.8, 7.0, 7.2 and 7.5 at.% Ni were prepared
lenticular-type martensite. The nature of these from pure Fe - Ni components by levitation
martensites has been discussed in recent pub- melting under an atmosphere of argon. Addi-
lications [2,4] including studies of relief, crys- tional alloys, containing 2.0, 3.9 and 9.1 wt.
tallography, dislocation density and orienta- % Ni, were received from the U.S. Steel Research
tion relationships. However, there has been Laboratory*. In all cases the alloys were made
relatively little study of the massive transfor- from materials of high purity exceeding
mation in the Fe - Ni system. Swanson and 99.99 at.%. After casting and homogenizing
Parr [ 5] have reported that, above approxima- the alloys were cold-worked to a strip 0.015
tely 7 at.% Ni, the transformation in iron - inch in thickness. The specimens were austeni-
nickel alloys is always martensitic regardless tized at l l 0 0 ° C in evacuated silica capsules
of the cooling rate. However, other studies for periods ranging from 2 to 20 days, and
have shown that the critical cooling rate they were then quenched or cooled in a num-
capable of suppressing all diffusion-controlled ber of quenching media of decreasing severity:
reactions, and hence aiding in the formation NaOH, iced brine, water, oil and air. The spec-
of martensite, changes rapidly with composi- imens were polished, either mechanically or
tion. A cooling rate in excess of 3 × 104 deg C/ electrolytically, in a solution of 810 ml acetic
sec is needed to obtain martensite at 1 at.% Ni acid, 15 g Cr208 and 42 ml water and etched
[5]. In alloys containing between 18 and 30 with a solution of methyl alcohol plus 5% ni-
at.% Ni, even following a slow cooling at tric acid.
some 5 deg C/min [6], only the martensitic In order to determine chemical composition,
transformation is observed. However, massive and to establish lack of composition gradients
transformation products have been reported between the massive a m phase and the ~f ma-
in alloys having less than 15 at.% Ni [7]. The trix, a number of microprobe studies were con-
purpose of the present investigation was to ducted. The usual technique was that reported
establish the range of composition in the Fe - previously [ 8]. Measurements were performed
Ni system in which the massive transforma- on many am-phase particles by a careful point-
tion, as defined by its various detailed features by-point scanning at approximately 1 pm inter-
[3], can occur on cooling. vals across the entire a m phase and the surround-
Recent studies of non-ferrous alloys have ing matrix. The data were corrected for back-
shown that a massive transformation to a ground radiation, dead time of the counting
single phase can take place also at composi- system, and the atomic concentration was es-
tions corresponding to a two-phase field, tablished using the Colby Magic IV computer
beyond the extent of a single phase field bound- program including absorption, fluorescence
cry [8]. The implication of this result is and atomic number effects. Following this
that, because the transformation is composi- procedure an accuracy of 0.1 wt.% Ni was at-
tion-invariant, a departure from equilibrium tained.
must occur at the transformation interface.

* T h e s y m b o l a m is often used to denote the product o f * T h e authors are grateful to Dr. G . R . S p e i e h f o r p r o -

a m a s s i v e t r a n s f o r m a t i o n [ 3 ]. viding these samples.


Preliminary experiments have shown that

the time of homogenization in the ~ phase
field was very important because, on account
of the very sluggish rates of diffusion [9],
several days of homogenization at l l 0 0 ° C
were required in order to produce the initial,
well annealed, equiaxed, 7 phase. Following a
prolonged homogenization of some 20 days
under a protective helium atmosphere a char-
acteristic thermal grooving, representing the
grain boundaries of the 7 phase, usually de-
veloped on the previously polished specimen
surface. This grooving proved useful in distin-
guishing between the products of a martensi-
tic and a massive transformation. The former
was always restricted within the boundaries
of parent 7 grains, owing to the crystallo-
graphic relationship, but the growth of the
latter easily extended across such boundaries,
presumably because of the lack of orientation
relationship, and the resulting incoherent na-
Fig. 2. The typical martensitic structure obtained in a
ture of the transformation interfaces. 6.0 at.% Ni alloy following a relatively fast quench
In the currently studied composition range from the ~f phase field.
the transformation product was clearly related
to the cooling rate. The faster the cooling rate
the more likely was the occurrence of a mar-
tensitic phase because the thermally activated
massive transformation was suppressed. In
alloys with a low nickel content, a high rate
of cooling could suppress the massive trans-
formation altogether, and a typical lath-type
martensitic structure resulted. With decreas-
ing rates of cooling the a m o u n t of massive
phase increased; cooling at a rate of a few de-
grees per second produced a complete massive
transformation in the composition range be-
tween approximately 2 and 5 at.% Ni.
Figure 2 shows a typical martensitic struc-
ture obtained in a 6.0 at.% Ni alloy following
a relatively fast quench from the 7 phase field.
If the cooling rate is reduced, a characteristic,
100% massive, transformation is obtained. In
Fig. 3, following air cooling from the ~f phase
field at approximately 7 deg C/sec, massive
transformation a m grains are seen to cross
the prior ~ phase boundaries in a 5.0 at.% Ni
alloy. However, if the cooling rate is increased,
the massive transformation gives way partially to
a lath-type martensitic structure even in alloys
Fig. 3. The massive transformation 0~a grains are
poor in'Ni. For example, Fig. 4 shows a mix- seen to cross the prior 9' phase boundaries in a 5.0
ture of massive and martensitic structures in a at.% Ni alloy after air cooling from the 7 phase field
3.7 at.% Ni alloy following a quench in iced at approximately 7 deg C/sec.

Fig. 4. Typical a m and martensite (M) structure in a Fig. 5. Partial massive transformation structure in a
3.7 at.% Ni alloy following a quench into iced water. 8.7 at.% Ni alloy cooled at 7 deg C/sec. Massive a m
phase occurs mostly near prior ~, phase boundaries.

water. By contrast, when the Ni c o n t e n t is in- (i.e. the temperature at which Gv = Ga) and
creased, very slow cooling rates were needed the M s temperature. Taking T o as the value
to produce even small amounts of the massive midway between the ~/I~, + a and a I~, + a phase
a m phase. Figure 5 shows an example of some boundaries (T O -~ 900°K), and M s from the
massive a m phase produced mostly near prior data of Swanson and Parr [5] (M s -~ 650°K),
phase boundaries, in a sample that had been we obtain T o -- M s -~ 250 ° K for the alloy con-
cooled relatively slowly at 7 deg C/sec. This taining 8.7 at.% Ni. At a cooling rate of 7 deg
alloy, with a composition of 8.7 at.% Ni, falls C/sec the time interval available for the massive
b e y o n d the retrograde a phase boundary of transformation is about 35 sec. During this
7 at.% Ni. Hence an equilibrium decomposition time the am precipitates became approximately
of the ? phase that would result in solute par- 20 #m wide. If it is assumed that the whole
titioning is expected on slow cooling. However, time interval was spent for growth, the lower
careful microprobe studies have shown that, limit of the growth rate, V, is approximately
under the cooling conditions imposed in the 6 X 10 - 7 m/sec*. The smallest size diffusion
present experiment, this was n o t the case. In layer, X, in which solute segregation can be
Fig. 6, a microprobe scan taken across both considered during growth ahead of the advanc-
the martensitic product and the massive am ing interface in the parent phase may be taken
phase indicates that the composition of the as one atomic spacing thick, or ~ 0.3 nm. The
martensitically transformed matrix and that rate of solute addition in such a layer is given
of the a m particle are the same, and that no by D / X where D is the diffusion coefficient
solute segregation has occurred.
This result is not surprising ifone compares * In fact, it has been s h o w n recently [10] that most
the time available for the nucleation and of the time available for a massive transformation
growth of the a m precipitates shown in Fig. 6 during continuous cooling is spent for nucleation.
This would tend to increase the estimated value for V.
against the time needed to initiate solute seg- However, for the purpose of estimating a lower limit
regation. The time available is the time the for V w e assume that all the available time was spent
specimen spent between the To temperature for growth.

O . o . • • *
. . r. •
.~ t
. • • • •,

E • • t" t.

g . # 8 • " ' • " "" " " '." • • "" t* • •

E'.'- 4~
" " i'" " °
" "
0 -- • J I I I ,I ,,, I I I ,I t .... i t l
8 16 24 32 40 48 56 64 72 80 88 ~ I~
Scan Distance (pLfrom stort of soon)

Fig. 6. Microprobe scan across a Fe - 8.7 at.% Ni specimen partially transformed to massive a m at 7 deg C/sec.
The composition of the martensitically transformed matrix and that of the 0lrn particle are the same.

of solute in the parent phase. If V is greater M~ in the 8.7 at.% Ni alloy, AGe decreases
than a b o u t 3 X 109 D m/sec., no significant from --192 J/mole to --1920 J/mole. On the
compositional buildup due to volume diffusion other hand the free energy gain, AGr,, result-
can take place ahead of the interface. A simi- ing from a composition invariant massive trans-
lar condition has been discussed by Karlyn formation in the 8.7 at.% Ni alloy just above
et aL [11] for massive transformations that M, is --1083 J/mole, on the basis of the ap-
occur in a single phase field in the Cu - Zn proach developed by Kaufman and Cohen [6].
system. In the present case, the diffusion co- While in a single phase field AG m and AGe are
efficient of Ni in 7 iron may be taken as equivalent, in a two-phase field they differ.
D ~ i = 0.77 e x p ( - - 6 7 , 0 0 0 / R T ) c m 2 /sec [9]. In the present case, at the observed limit of
Hence, at T O in the 8.7 at.% Ni alloy, the the massive transformation, the maximum
minimum growth rate that still prevents com- (negative) gain AGm is about one-half of the
positional partitioning is 3 X 109D~i = 1.5 X value of AGe, resulting from the partitioning
10 - i l m/sec, which is nearly five orders of reaction. Yet the massive transformation
magnitude lower that the observed lower limit takes place because of kinetic considerations
value derived above. Hence, in agreement with at the transformation interface.
the microprobe results, long range redistribu- The above conclusions are in agreement
tion of Ni cannot take place. with previous similar observations [ 8 ] in Cu -
It is also of interest to examine the free Zn, Cu - A1 and Ag - Cd alloys in which a com-
energy "gain", AGe, that would result if equi- position-invariant massive transformation pro-
librium segregation occurred. The free energy duct is also observed to form in the equilibrium
change accompanying this reaction is given by two-phase region. In the present case similar
[12] results were obtained also in alloys contain-
ing 7.2 at.% Ni and 7.5 at.% Ni. These re-
&Ge = R T IX~°i In X~Ni
+ (1 - - X~NOi)In (1--X~i~
___ , sults clearly indicate that, even with relatively
slow cooling in the Fe - Ni system, of the two
alternative thermally activated processes that
where X~°~ is the atom fraction of Ni in the are possible, namely equilibrium decomposi-
original 7 phase, and ~ i is the atom fraction tion of the 7 phase with solute partitioning
of Ni in the resulting 7 phase. Assuming that and the composition-invariant massive pro-
both Henry's and Raoult's laws are obeyed, cess, the latter occurs. Diffusion takes place
over the temperature interval between T o and only at the transformation boundaries and

aids the transport of atoms across these bound- agreement with previous such studies in non-
aries, apparently without equilibrium at the ferrous systems, that the massive transforma-
interface. This process continues until a tion takes place without local equilibrium at
martensitic change, without diffusion, trans- the transformation interface.
forms most of the remaining 7 matrix.

The authors are grateful to Dr. A.J. Perkins
1. In the Fe - Ni system, under certain con- for helpful discussions during the period of this
ditions, the b.c.c, a phase forms from the f.c.c. research.
phase by the process of composition-invariant This study was supported in part by a grant
massive transformation. The massive transfor- from the U.S. Army Research Office, Durham,
mation product phase has been observed in N.C., which is gratefully acknowledged.
alloys containing up to 8.7 at.% Ni. The na-
ture of the massive phase has been confirmed
by both metallographic features, such as cross- REFERENCES
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