The goal of improving the efficiency of pulverized coal power plants has been pursued for decades. The need for greater efficiency and reduced environmental impact is pushing utilities to ultra supercritical conditions (USC), i.e. steam conditions of 760°C and 35 MPa. The long-term creep strength and environmental resistance requirements imposed by these conditions are clearly beyond the capacity of the currently used ferritic steels and other related alloys. Consequently, new materials based on austenitic stainless steels and nickel-base superalloys are being evaluated as candidate materials for these applications. In the present work, the nickel-base superalloys CCA617, Haynes 230 and Inconel 740, and an austenitic stainless steel Super З04H, were evaluated. The materials were aged for different lengths of time at temperatures relevant to USC applications and the corresponding microstructural changes were characterized by x-ray diffraction, optical, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, with particular attention being given to the structure, morphology and compositions of phases (including γ, γ’, carbides, ordered phases, etc.) and the nature, density and distribution of dislocations and other defects. The results are presented and discussed in light of accompanying changes in microhardness.

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