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Niobium Additions in HP Heat-Resistant Cast

Stainless Steels
Gloria Dulce de Almeida Soares,* Luiz Henrique de Almeida,*
Tito Luiz da Silveira, *t and Iain Le May *~
*COPPE/UFRJ, P.O. Box 68505, 21945 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil; *Faculdade de Engenharia
Souza Marques, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and ~:Metallurgical Consulting Services Ltd., Saskatoon,

The microstructures of HP-type heat-resistant cast steels, having niobium additions up

to 2 wt.%, were examined in the as-cast condition and after artificial aging at 700, 900,
and ll00°C. Microstructural studies were conducted using scanning transmission electron
microscopy and x-ray diffraction. Instability of NbC between 700 and 1000°C occurs in
these alloys, with partial tranformation to a nickel-niobium silicide, G phase. A time-
temperature-transformation diagram has been constructed for the 1.97% Nb alloy. Creep
tests were made on the as-cast and aged material. Niobium containing alloys aged at 700
and 900°C display superior creep properties to those of the as-cast material or material
aged at 1100°C. The results of the creep tests have been related to the microstructuraI
changes taking place upon aging.

INTRODUCTION [4]. Moreover, there has not been a sys-

tematic study of phase characterization
Improvements in the performance of heat- and of the stability of phases over temper-
resistant centrifugally cast stainless steels ature ranges for material in the aged con-
have been made primarily through the ad- dition. Only recently, the Ni-Nb-Si inter-
dition of carbide-forming elements and metallic G phase was reported in a heat-
from the analysis of their creep behavior. resistant cast steel exposed to long-term
The new generation of this type of steel, service at high temperature [5].
used as radiant tubes in pyrolysis and re- In this study, the structural stability of
former furnaces, shows improved creep niobium-alloyed HP cast steel has been in-
behavior in comparison with that of the vestigated. The alloys were produced in a
traditional steels [1-3]. However, the char- vacuum induction furnace, and the level
acterization of the microstructure of such of total chromium was decreased as the
steels and the relationship between mi- niobium content was increased. The
crostructure and mechanical properties are changes in microstructure as a result of
still not completely understood. Little has aging at different temperatures have been
been published concerning the balance of examined, and the effect of niobium ad-
the basic composition, e.g., the effect of ditions on the microstructural changes has
excess chromium in solid solution caused been studied. Creep tests have been con-
by the consumption of carbon by the ducted and the results interpreted :aking
stronger carbide formers has not been dis- the observed microstructures into consid-
cussed extensively, although some effects eration. Initial observations of the micro-
have been reported by the present authors structures of as-cast steel and of steel aged

<~Elsevier Science Publishing Co., Inc., 1992 MAFERIALS CHARACI ERIZA l'lOX 2Y:Bg7 3o6 (19~)E)
t~55 A v e n u e of the Americas, New York, NY 10010 1044 5~03 92 S5 (10
388 G. D. de Almeida Soares et al.

at 900°C have been presented previously which are thought to precipitate as a result
by the authors [4]. of carbon expelled by the NbC ~ G trans-
formation [5, 6]. The G phase does not ap-
pear to be detrimental to the mechanical
BIBLIOGRAPHIC REVIEW properties of the steel, and some authors
report that it is more deformable than is
The development of improved heat-resis- niobium carbide [7]. Many particles of the
tant cast austenitic steels has been accom- complex nickel-niobium silicide were iden-
plished by the addition of stronger carbide tified in an HK niobium-modified cast tube
formers such as niobium and titanium. that had operated for more than 60,000
This is the case for modified HK and mod- hours at a temperature of 900°C, strength-
ified HP steels, which have been used in ening the idea that such precipitates are
petrochemical furnaces, mainly in the form not necessary deleterious [5].
of centrifugally cast tubes.
The basic HP composition, without niob-
ium or titanium additions, exhibits the typ- MATERIALS A N D EXPERIMENTAL
ical microstructure of an as-cast heat-resis- PROCEDURE
tant steel, consisting of an austenite matrix
surrounded by carbides, mainly in inter- Table 1 shows the chemical composition of
dendritic orientation. In this alloy the pri- the four experimental heats. Control of the
mary carbides have been identified as content of gases and residual elements was
chromium carbides of Cr7C3 type [4]. The also conducted, and their levels are shown
stronger carbide-forming elements pro- in Table 2: their concentrations are well
duce microstructural modifications other below the requirements of the project. The
than the partial replacement of the chro- chemical balance used to define the alloys'
mium carbide. A characteristic feature composition has been described by Bar-
caused by addition of niobium is fragmen- babela [8].
tation of the primary carbide network, the The alloys were subjected to exposure
effect increasing with increase in niobium for 1000 hours at temperatures of 700, 900,
content. This fragmentation is reported to and 1100°C. These values were chosen be-
be responsible for minimizing creep crack cause they are, respectively, close to the
growth at the carbide/matrix interfaces [1, temperature of the cold region, the service
5]. In as-cast steel, the niobium additions temperature, and the maximum tempera-
also cause modification of the stoichiom- ture in petrochemical furnaces of the type
etry of the chromium carbides, these pass- in which they would be used.
ing from M7C3 tO M23C6 type, as the quan- The phases precipitated after aging were
tity of niobium increases. identified using scanning transmission
Exposure of such heat-resistant cast electron microscopy, energy dispersive x-
steels to high temperature leads to second-
ary precipitation, and the addition of niob-
ium delays the coarsening of the secondary
precipitation, the precipitates remaining Table 1 Chemical Composition of
finer and less coalesced when compared Experimental Alloys
with those of the basic HP steel [4]. Composition (wt. %)
Transformation of NbC to a nickel-niob-
ium silicide has been reported in wrought Alloy C Ni Cr Mn Si Nb
low-carbon stainless steel [6, 7] and in A 0.43 32.6 26.0 0.92 1.81 - -
heat-resistant centrifugally cast steel [5]. B 0.43 33.8 24.3 1.11 1 . 7 1 0.69
This silicide, usually of composition C 0.39 33.4 22.3 1.11 1 . 8 0 1.23
Ni16Nb6Si7 (G phase), was detected in as- D 0.39 32.6 20.4 0.97 1 . 6 3 1.97
sociation with chromium carbide particles,
Niobium Additions in HP Steels 389

Table 2 Concentration of Gases and Residual NbC) are partially transformed and sec-
Elements in the Experimental Alloys ondary precipitation (M23C6, G-phase, and
(Mean Values) NbC) occurs. The structural changes are
temperature and composition dependent.
Element ppm
With increase of niobium content, the ex-
H 4 tent of the secondary precipitation de-
O 245 creases, the fragmentation of the primary
N 115 carbide network is more marked, and the
S 40 coalescence of the precipitated phases is
P <20 reduced. The primary chromium carbides
Pb 100 are largely stable upon aging, although
Bi <10 transformation from M7C3 to M23C6 could
Cu 22 be detected after aging at high tempera-
Cd 3 ture. On the other hand, the niobium car-
Sn <10 bide is unstable under certain aging con-
Sb <10 ditions and can be transformed in situ to
a nickel-niobium silicide (G phase). These
microstructural observations are described
more fully as follows.
ray (EDX) analysis, and x-ray diffraction of
extracted residues. Thin foils were pre- Chromium Carbides (M7C3, M23C6)
pared in a jet polishing unit using a 10%
High aging temperatures promote a ten-
HC1-H20 solution. The final polish was
dency toward chromium enrichment in the
made using electrolytic polishing with a
M7C3 primary carbide (as cast) that was
perchloric/glycerol/ethanol solution (10/20/
precipitated in all alloys except Alloy D
70) at 16V d.c. and 10°C. The residues ex-
(1.97% Nb). In Alloy D, the primary chro-
tracted using Berzelius' solution were
mium carbide was identified as of M23C6
mounted on a copper grid covered with a
type because of carbon consumption aris-
Formvar film for examination by scanning
ing from preferential precipitation of NbC.
transmission electron microscopy.
Figure 1 is a bar diagram showing the
Creep tests were made on the as-cast al-
weight fraction of each carbide type pre-
loys and on material aged for 1000 hours.
cipitated in the as-cast state. This diagram
Tests were run at 925°C at a stress of 45
Additional aging treatments were made
on Alloy D (1.97% Nb) to define the NbC
G phase transformation curve over the Phases(wr

temperature range 700-1100°C, for a range

of times. The transformations were moni- 100

tored by means of x-ray diffraction of ex- 80

tracted residues, the 0.198nm interplanar 60
spacing on the spectra being used to char-
acterize the presence of G phase.
(0%Nb) (o.e~Nb) O.~'Y*Nb) O.sw'/,a~)
As cast alloys
Fie. 1. Bar diagram showing the weight fraction of
MICROSTRUCTURAL ANALYSIS each type of carbide identified by x-ray diffraction and
quantified by chemical analysis of extracted residues
During aging, the primary precipitates in from the as-cast alloys, considering stoichiometric
the as-cast structure (M7C3, M23C6, and relationships.
390 G. D. de Almeida Soares et al.

was constructed through quantification of shaped) were identified in the aged alloys,
the extracted residues, and it shows the particularly in Alloy B. This appears to be
decreasing concentration of chromium car- related to an excess of chromium with re-
bides with increase in niobium content. spect to the carbon in the solid solution,
After aging at 700°C, the primary chro- although a satisfactory relationship be-
mium carbide maintained the M7C3 stoi- tween the chemical composition and the
chiometry, but at 900 and 1100°C, all par- volumetric fraction of needles could not be
ticles had been transformed to M23C6. Be- obtained. (It may be noted that, when the
cause of the high degree of matrix chemical balance used to define the alloys'
supersaturation, M23C6 was also present in composition is considered, Alloy B has a
all alloys after aging, in the form of sec- higher ratio of chromium to carbon in so-
ondary carbides. The M23C6 precipitated lution than do Alloys C and D [8].) Figure
during aging had an orientation relation- 3 shows the appearance of these particles
ship with the matrix defined as in Alloy B aged at 700°C, where the diag-
[ll0]carbide I11110]~, as shown in Fig. 2. The onal [113] alignment of the small precipi-
EDX analysis indicated that, like the Cr7C3, tated carbides can be identified. Figure 4
the Cr23C6 carbide contained some dis- shows small needle-shaped particles of
solved iron and nickel; thus, it is referred M23C6 in Alloy B after aging at 1100°C, al-
to as being M23C6. EDX analysis indicated though at this temperature, optical mi-
the composition of the precipitates as croscopy shows a high degree of coales-
(Cro.86Feo.1oNio.04)23C6 for Alloy B aged at cence [8]. The EDX spectra also suggest
900°C for 1000 hours. that the chromium carbide could exhibit
Several chromium carbide particles hav- enrichment in niobium after long expo-
ing Widmanst~itten morphology (needle sure, as noted previously [4].

FIc. 2. Secondary chromium carbides of M23C6type precipitated in Alloy B aged at 700°C for 1000 hours. (a)
Lowermagnification view, (b) higher magnification view showing [ll0]carbideII[1]-0]rnatrixorientation relationship.
Niobium Additions in HP Steels 391

NbC Carbide
The face-centered cubic carbide, NbC, is
formed as a result of the addition of niob-
ium. Optical microscopy shows the pri-
mary carbide to exhibit a "Chinese-script"
morphology, which can also be seen at
high magnification from scanning trans-
mission electron microscopy in Fig. 5. The
calculated lattice parameter was 0.47nm.
After aging at 700 and 900°C, the niobium
carbide displayed instability with respect
to G phase. The quantity of NbC detected
by x-ray diffraction in Alloys B and C aged
at 900°C was very small. After aging at
1100°C, NbC was the only niobium-rich
phase detected by x-ray diffraction.

G Phase
This phase was detected in all niobium-
containing specimens aged at 700 and
900°C as a consequence of the high-tem-
perature instability of NbC. After aging at
FIG. 3. Cuboid particles of secondary M23C6 carbides
with diagonal alignment in Alloy B aged at 700°C for 700 and 900°C, some secondary particles
1000 hours (extracted residues on copper grid). having a round shape were identified

FIG. 4. Cuboid and Widmanst/itten particles of M23C6 FIG. 5. NbC primary carbide network exhibiting a
carbide precipitated in Alloy B after 1000 hours aging Chinese scriptlike morphology: Alloy B in the ds-cast
at 1100°C. condition.
392 G. D. de Almeida Soares et al.

Fie. 6. G phase particles with round shape, precipi- FIG. 8. G phase particles identified by nickel line scan
tated at chromium carbide-matrix interface: Alloy B in Alloy B aged at 900°C, resulting from in situ trans-
aged at 700°C for 1000 hours. formation of primary niobium carbides.

along the interfaces between the matrix firming the observations of the x-ray data,
and the primary chromium carbides, as several G phase particles, the products of
shown in Fig. 6. Upon exposure at 900°C, in situ transformation of niobium carbides,
the intensity of the NbC peaks shown on were identified by electron microscopy in
the x-ray spectra decreased substantially all niobium alloyed specimens; this is il-
from that for as-cast material (Fig. 7). Con- lustrated in Fig. 8. The in situ transformed


5(3 50

40 40

30 30

20 20

10 10

600 50° 40° 3( 60 o 50° 40° 3 0°

FIG. 7. X-ray diffraction spectra for Alloy C, showing intensity versus diffraction angle. (a) In the as-cast con-
dition, and (b) after 1000 hours at 900°C, showing a marked decrease in the intensity of the NbC peaks as a
consequence of NbC---*G phase transformation.
Niobium Additions in HP Steels 393

precipitates maintain the m o r p h o l o g y of

1,200 I Alloy D 1.97 Nb
the primary carbides.
1,100 :3
M e a s u r e m e n t of the lattice p a r a m e t e r for
the face-centered cubic n i c k e l - n i o b i u m sil- 1.000 2 ~lb
icide indicates a value of 1.13nm. All peaks
of the x-ray spectra agree with the data for
E M~C8 G Phase + NbC
silicide of the type Ni16Nb7Si6 [9], although
the semi-quantitative EDX analysis of
these particles indicated a composition 700 ~ I
Ni6Nbs.sSi4.3. The EDX analysis also indi-
cated that iron and c h r o m i u m can be dis-
3 10 30 1(30 3OO 1,000
solved in this silicide. Time (h)
Because no G phase was detected by
FIG. 9. Time-temperature-precipitation curves deter-
x-ray or electron microscopy in any spec- m i n e d from x-ray diffraction data for Alloy D (1.97%
imen aged at 1100°C, the range of stability Nb), s h o w i n g the stability range for G phase. The
of NbC was d e t e r m i n e d by m e a n s of ad- solid circles represent conditions w h e r e M2~C~, G
ditional aging tests. The time-temperature- phase and NbC coexist. In some cases (at longer
precipitation curves s h o w n in Fig. 9 define times) the NbC was ve D, little, but was detectable.
the NbC transformation of Alloy D (1.97%
Nb). The solid circles r e p r e s e n t identifi-
cation of G phase on the x-ray spectra,
based on an interplanar spacing of in all aging conditions, an arrow indicating
0.198nm, c o r r e s p o n d i n g to {440} planes. an increasing v o l u m e fraction of M23C~, or
The nose of the curve is at 950°C, G phase relates to precipitation associated
approximately. with the n e t w o r k of primary carbides and
Table 3 illustrates the phases detected at also with secondary precipitation in the
the different aging conditions for each austenite matrix. Table 3 shows the
alloy. The arrows indicate if the v o l u m e changes in each phase for each aging con-
fraction of a particular phase is increasing dition with respect to the original as-cast
or decreasing d u r i n g aging. For all alloys condition.

Table 3 Phases Detected in the Different Alloys and Aging Conditions


Alloy condition 0% Nb 0.69% Nb 1.23% Nb 1.97'~'~ Nb

As-cast M7C3 M7C3 M7C3 --

-- -- -- M2~C,
-- NbC NbC NbC
A g e d 700°C 1000 h M7C3 ,l, M7C3 ,~ M7C3 ~, --
M23C6 i' M23C~, T M23C, I' M2~C,, T
-- NbC ~ NbC ~ NbC
- - G1' Gi' GI"
Aged 900°C 1000 h M23C6 I' M23C~ T M23Ce, 1' M2~C(, T
-- NbC ~ NbC $ NbC
-- GT GJ' GI"
Aged 1100°C 1000 h M23C6 I' M23C~ 1' M23C, 1' M2~C, '~
-- NbC 1' NbC I' NbC 1'
The arrows indicate if the volume fraction of a particular phase is increasing ( ~' ) or decreasing ( ,~) with respect to the as-cast
394 G. D. de Almeida Soares et al.

• o.sg~ Nb
," • 1.2~,6 Nb Aging at 700°C is characterized by exten-
,:' • 1.9"t%Nb
sive secondary precipitation. The precipi-
tation was identified as chromium carbide
o f M23C6 type plus small particles of G
phase. Many particles'of this silicide were
observed at the interfaces between the ma-
1.. ~:i:iiiii ............. trix and primary chromium carbides. At
700°C the transformation of the primary
o ~ , , ........ , ......... , ......... , ......... , ......... , ........
As cast 700 800 go0 1,000 1,100 1,200 NbC to G is not as well defined as at 900°C,
Aging temperature
even using x-ray diffraction or transmis-
FIG. 10. Rupture time as a function of prior aging tem- sion electron microscopy.
perature for all alloys creep tested at 925°C and The increase in the rupture time shown
45MPa. by the alloys aged at 700°C may be a con-
sequence of the extensive fine secondary
precipitation and of the fragmentation of
the primary carbides. The decrease in the
volumetric fraction of secondary precipi-
tation with increase in niobium content
Figures 10 and 11, respectively, show the
may explain the relatively lower rupture
variation in rupture life and minimum
time for Alloy D (1.97% Nb). However, it
creep rate as a function of aging temper-
is important that Alloy D still shows much
ature for creep tests at 925°C and 45MPa.
better creep properties when compared
The lower values of rupture time and high
with Alloy A without niobium.
values of minimum creep rate for Alloy A
The instability of the niobium carbide is
(0% Nb) may be seen, as well as similar
a distinct feature observed upon aging at
effects for all alloys after aging at 1100°C.
900°C, with extensive transformation of
Alloys B - D display improved creep prop-
the primary NbC to the nickel-niobium sil-
erties after aging at 700 and 900°C, al-
icide. For all Nb-alloyed steels, the amount
though the properties of Alloys B and C
of G phase after aging at 900°C for 1000
are not so much improved over the unaged
hours was nearly constant, this being es-
material when aged at 900°C.
timated from the intensity of the 0.198nm
peak on the x-ray diffraction spectra. On
the other hand, the secondary precipita-
c3 O~Nb
tion has coalesced to a considerable extent.
• o.e8% Nb
Hence, the creep behavior observed in
Q 1 . 2 ~ Nb Figs. 10 and 11 is probably related to the
• 1.97~ Nb fragmentation of the primary carbides by
the addition of niobium, this being greater
~ IE4~ in Alloy D. The improved creep behavior
of Alloy D over that of Alloys B and C may
"E 1E4~7
also be associated with delay in the coa-
1E4~ lescence of the secondary precipitation
owing to the higher niobium concentra-
IE4~ r-~
, ........
800 900
, ........
, ..... , ......... , ........
1,100 1,200
tion. The low rupture time shown by Alloy
Aging tern~ratLIre ~°C) B after aging at 900°C may also be related
FIG. 11. Minimum creep rate as a function of prior to the higher volume fraction of the needle-
aging temperature for all alloys creep tested at 925°C shaped chromium carbide caused by the
and 45MPa. higher Cr/C ratio of this alloy.
Niobium Additions in HP Steels 395

Based on t,he limited test time of 1000 m a t i o n k e e p i n g the original Chinese script-
hours, the m a x i m u m t e m p e r a t u r e for the like m o r p h o l o g y .
stability of G p h a s e is b e t w e e n 1000 a n d Artificial aging p r o m o t e s c h r o m i u m en-
1050°C, as indicated in Fig. 9. This value r i c h m e n t of the M7C3 c h r o m i u m carbide
is greater t h a n those d e t e r m i n e d b y Powell a n d s e c o n d a r y precipitation of M23C6
et al. [6] a n d Ecob et al. [7]. In the p r e s e n t s h o w i n g a [110] relationship with the aus-
case, the high n i o b i u m content p r o b a b l y tenite matrix. Alloys h a v i n g a higher ratio
acts to extend the field of stability of the G of c h r o m i u m to carbon in solution s h o w a
phase, as occurs with titanium in the diagonal a l i g n m e n t of M23C6 cuboids, re-
n i c k e l - t i t a n i u m - s i l i c o n s y s t e m [10]. More- sulting in n e e d l e - s h a p e d precipitates that
over, the higher nickel content in the pres- can be d e t r i m e n t a l to the mechanical
ent alloys, as c o m p a r e d w i t h those studied properties.
b y Powell et al. a n d Ecob et al., should as- C r e e p test results indicate the relevance
sist with d e c o m p o s i t i o n of the N b C by fa- of the s e c o n d a r y precipitation and suggest
voring the nickel-rich phases. The role of a greater contribution to creep strength of
o x y g e n content on N b C d e c o m p o s i t i o n , as a f r a g m e n t e d p r i m a r y microstructure con-
p o s t u l a t e d by Ecob et al. [7], is still unclear. taining G p h a s e as c o m p a r e d with that
The characteristic of aging at 1100°C is f r o m one containing NbC.
the stability of NbC. R u p t u r e life of spec-
i m e n s aged at this t e m p e r a t u r e w a s almost The authors thank M. C. S. Miranda for the
i n d e p e n d e n t of the n i o b i u m content, the graphical work, and are grateful for financial
mechanical b e h a v i o r being inferior to that support received from CBMM--Companhia
of the a g e d alloys in w h i c h G p h a s e w a s Brasileira de Metalurgia e Minerafdo, FINEP/
present. At this t e m p e r a t u r e , the contri- CNP (Brazil), the International Development
bution of the s e c o n d a r y precipitation is not Research Centre (IDRC), and the Natural Sci-
c o n s i d e r e d to be significant. It is i m p o r t a n t ences and Engineering Research Council (Can-
to note that the creep tests w e r e p e r f o r m e d ada). Thanks are expressed to Professor D. Tro-
at 925°C, at w h i c h t e m p e r a t u r e the N b C ---* man and Mary Mager of the University of Brit-
G p h a s e t r a n s f o r m a t i o n can occur. The ish Columbia for the use of the Hitachi STEM
short time of the creep tests of the speci- and for helpful discussions. Thanks are also ex-
m e n s a g e d at 1100°C w a s insufficient to pressed to Sr. Luiz Rosa for the use of facilities.
p r o d u c e extensive t r a n s f o r m a t i o n as com-
p a r e d to that occurring d u r i n g aging at 900
and 700°C. The results p r e s e n t e d in Figs.
10 a n d 11 indicate a greater contribution to References
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