We have performed an in-depth characterisation of the microstructure evolution of 20Cr-25Ni Nb-stabilised austenitic stainless steel during 1h isochronal annealing up to 1100°C using scanning electron microscopy. This steel grade is used as cladding material in advanced gas-cooled fission reactors, due to its resistance to thermal creep and oxidation. The initial deformed microstructure undergoes recrystallisation via a strain-induced boundary migration mechanism, attaining a fully recrystallised microstructure at 850C. A number of twins are observed in the vicinity of deformation bands prior to the start of recrystallisation. New Nb(C,N) particles form gradually in the microstructure, and the particle dispersion presents a maximum volume fraction of 2.7% at 930°C. At higher temperatures, the smaller particles become unstable and gradually dissolve in the matrix. Consequently, the Zener pinning pressure exerted on the grain boundaries is progressively released, triggering the growth of the austenite grains up to an average size of 47m at 1100°C. The observed temperature window for recrystallisation and grain growth can be predicted by a unified model based primarily on the migration of high and low angle grain boundaries.
Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms
- Dalton Nuclear Institute