Some difficulties in the theory of diffusion-controlled growth in substitutionally alloyed steels

H. K. D. H. Bhadeshia


The theory for the diffusion-controlled growth of ferrite in steels that also contain substitutional solutes is fraught with difficulties when it comes to transformation at large supersaturations, where the bulk compositions of the ferrite and austenite do not differ much, but where local-equilibrium is nevertheless maintained at the transformation front. This requires the existence of a narrow variation in substitutional solute content in the austenite at the interface (so-called ‘concentration spike’) - so narrow that it has no physical meaning. Drawing on the theory for spinodal reactions, it is demonstrated here that there is a substantial penalty associated with the creation of such sharp changes in composition. Therefore, the spikes would never occur in practice. The actual distribution of solute would be over distances orders of magnitude larger than currently calculated, leading to slower growth rates than are predicted currently. The consequences of this conclusion place doubt both on the transition from local to paraequilibrium, and whether the latter state exists at all for reconstructive transformations.

Current Opinion in Solid State and Materials Science 20 (2016) 396-400. DOI

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