Abstract

The influence of microstructure on hydrogen embrittlement of high strength steels for fastener applications is explored in this study. Space limiting applications in areas such as the automotive or agricultural industries provide a need for higher strength fasteners. Albeit, hydrogen embrittlement susceptibility typically increases with strength. Using a 9260 steel alloy, the influence of retained austenite volume fraction in a martensitic matrix was evaluated with microstructures generated via quenching and partitioning. X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy were used to assess the influence of retained austenite in the matrix with different quenching parameters. The quench temperatures varied from 160 °C up to 220 °C, and a constant partitioning temperature of 290 °C was employed for all quench and partitioned conditions. The target hardness for all testing conditions was 52-54 HRC. Slow strain rate tensile testing was conducted with cathodic hydrogen pre-charging that introduced a hydrogen concentration of 1.0-1.5 ppm to evaluate hydrogen embrittlement susceptibility of these various microstructures. The retained austenite volume fraction and carbon content varied with the initial quench temperature. Additionally, the lowest initial quench temperature employed, which had the highest austenite carbon content, had the greatest hydrogen embrittlement resistance for a hydrogen concentration level of 1.0-1.5 ppm.

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