ferrous metallurgy

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Ferrous Metallurgy: The Chemistry and Structure of Iron and Steel: 

Ferrous Metallurgy: The Chemistry and Structure of Iron and Steel

Pure Iron: 

Pure Iron Iron from which the residual carbon left over from smelting has been removed. In the pure state it is a very soft grey metal Of no commercial use

Wrought Iron: 

Wrought Iron Has approx 0.05% carbon Used since about 2000 BC Is stronger than most other pure metals. Made into weapons, armour, cooking pots and vessels Main limitation to wider uses due to processing (no way of making large items and no welding)

Abraham Darby’s Ironbridge: 

Abraham Darby’s Ironbridge

Cast Iron: 

Cast Iron Between 2% & 4% carbon content Standard grey cast iron very brittle due to carbon rosettes in the structure acting as stress-raisers Possible to use heat treatment to improve the structure, this gives materials such as ductile iron and malleable iron (black heart)

Ductile iron used in drain grids: 

Ductile iron used in drain grids


Grey cast iron showing the graphite flakes in a pearlite matrix


Steel 0.001% to 1.5% carbon Wide range of properties due to: Variation in carbon content Cold working Heat treatment Addition of alloying elements

Microstructure of Steel: 

Microstructure of Steel Five main constituents: Ferrite Austenite Cementite Pearlite Martensite


Ferrite The structure of pure iron. Has a body-centred cubic (BCC) crystal structure. It is soft and ductile and imparts these properties to the steel. Very little carbon (less than 0.01% carbon will dissolve in ferrite at room temperature). Often known as  iron.


A photomicrograph of 0.1% carbon steel (mild steel). The light areas are ferrite.


Austenite This is the structure of iron at high temperatures (over 912 deg C). Has a face-centre cubic (FCC) crystal structure. This material is important in that it is the structure from which other structures are formed when the material cools from elevated temperatures. Often known as  iron. Not present at room temperatures.


Cementite A compound of iron and carbon, iron carbide (Fe3C). It is hard and brittle and its presence in steels causes an increase in hardness and a reduction in ductility and toughness.


Pearlite A laminated structure formed of alternate layers of ferrite and cementite. It combines the hardness and strength of cementite with the ductility of ferrite and is the key to the wide range of the properties of steels. The laminar structure also acts as a barrier to crack movement as in composites. This gives it toughness.


Two-dimensional view of pearlite, consisting of alternating layers of cementite and ferrite.


Three-dimensional analogy to the structure of pearlite, i.e. the cabbage represents a single crystal of pearlite, and the water in the bucket the single crystal of ferrite.


Martensite A very hard needle-like structure of iron and carbon. Only formed by very rapid cooling from the austenitic structure (i.e. above upper critical temperature). Needs to be modified by tempering before acceptable properties reached.


The needle-like structure of martensite, the white areas are retained austenite.


Carbon In steels none of the carbon is present as free carbon. It is all dissolved in the iron as part of the previously described structures.

0.1% Carbon Steel: 

0.1% Carbon Steel Note the small amount of pearlite in the structure


Applications A typical application of low carbon steel in a car body.

Effect of Carbon Content: 

Effect of Carbon Content Increasing the carbon content decreases the amount of ferrite and increases the proportion of pearlite in the structure.

0.2% Carbon Steel: 

0.2% Carbon Steel Note the increased amount of pearlite compared with the 0.1% ‘dead mild’ steel

Eutectic Structure: 

Eutectic Structure This leads to an increase in strength and hardness and a reduction in ductility. This continues until there is 0.8% carbon at which point the structure is 100% pearlite. This is known as a eutectic structure.

Over 0.8% Carbon: 

Over 0.8% Carbon As carbon content increases beyond 0.8%, no more pearlite can be formed. The excess carbon forms cementite which is deposited in between the pearlite grains. This increases the hardness, but slightly reduces the strength. The ductility of all plain carbon steels over 0.8% carbon is very low.

Properties of Carbon Steels: 

Properties of Carbon Steels

Properties of Carbon Steels: 

Properties of Carbon Steels

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