The European Physical Journal Applied Physics

Research Article

Advanced microscopy techniques resolving complex precipitates in steels*

W. Saikalya1, R. Sotoa1, X. Banoa2, C. Issartela2, G. Rigauta2 and A. Charaïa1

Laboratoire de Métallurgie, EDIFIS (UMR 6518 du CNRS), case 511, Faculté des Sciences et Techniques de St. Jérôme, 13397 Marseille Cedex 20, France

CRPC – SOLLAC, bâtiment DB26, 13776 Fos-sur-Mer Cedex, France


Scanning electron microscopy as well as analytical transmission electron microscopy techniques such as high resolution, electron diffraction, energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDX), parallel electron energy loss spectroscopy (PEELS) and elemental mapping via a Gatan Imaging Filter (GIF) have been used to study complex precipitation in commercial dual phase steels microalloyed with titanium. Titanium nitrides, titanium carbosulfides, titanium carbonitrides and titanium carbides were characterized in this study. Both carbon extraction replicas and thin foils were used as sample preparation techniques. On both the microscopic and nanometric scales, it was found that a large amount of precipitation occurred heterogeneously on already existing inclusions/precipitates. CaS inclusions (1 to 2 μm), already present in liquid steel, acted as nucleation sites for TiN precipitating upon the steel's solidification. In addition, TiC nucleated on existing smaller TiN (around 30 to 50 nm). Despite the complexity of such alloys, the statistical analysis conducted on the non-equilibrium samples were found to be in rather good agreement with the theoretical equilibrium calculations. Heterogeneous precipitation must have played a role in bringing these results closer together.

(Received July 3 1998)

(Revised September 29 1998)

(Revised January 25 1999)

(Accepted March 16 1999)

(Online publication June 15 1999)


  • 61.16.Bg – Transmission, reflection and scanning electron microscopy (including EBIC);
  • 81.40.Cd – Solid solution hardening, precipitation hardening, and dispersion hardening; aging


*  This work was performed on equipment at CP2M (Centre Pluridisciplinaire de Microscopie Électronique et de Microanalyse), Faculté des Sciences et Techniques de St. Jérôme, Marseille, France.