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The heat treatment of steel is based on the physical metallurgical principles that relate to its processing, properties, and structure. The microstructures that result from the heat treatment of steel are composed of one or more phases in which the atoms of iron, carbon, and other elements in steel are associated. This article describes the phases of heat treated steel, and provides information on effect of temperature change and the size of carbon atoms relative to that of iron atoms during the heat treatment.

Hardenability refers to the ability of steel to obtain satisfactory hardening to some desired depth when cooled under prescribed conditions. It is governed almost entirely by the chemical composition (carbon and alloy content) at the austenitizing temperature and the austenite grain size at the moment of quenching. This article describes the Jominy end-quench test, the Grossman method, and the air hardenability test to evaluate hardenability. It also reviews the factors that influence steel hardenability and selection.

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