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Deakin Research

Institute for Frontier Materials


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Our Research

Advanced High Strength Steels for the Automotive Industry

This is a very broad research program that considers both the steel industry as well as the automotive industry aspects. Current topics include:

  • Formability of dual phase, TRIP and other steels, including the fracture behaviour, FLD construction, finite element modeling of the forming strains and springback and advanced microstructure-fea models examining strain partitioning.
  • Fatigue behaviour of TRIP and DP steels using our strain controlled 30Hz fatigue tester that can do both tension and compression cycles. This has included examining the effect of prestrain and an understanding of the evolution of the dislocation substructure.
  • Crash Behaviour of AHSS. This work has led to the development of improved models to represent the constitutive behaviour of a wide range of steels under crash conditions. We will be extending this work later this year when the 25m/s tensile frame is commissioned. The objective is to develop a microstructure based constitutive model.
  • Bake Hardening of AHSS. The bake hardening response of these steels is very variable and we have been looking at why this is the case for TRIP and DP steels. By using atom probe tomography (APT) we have been able to link the level of solute C in the ferrite and the nature of the dislocation structure to the bake hardening response.
  • Thermomechanically produced TRIP steels. This is an ongoing project to understand the microstructure evolution and the alloy partitioning and TRIP effect. Again we have recently used APT to examine the details of alloy partitioning.
  • Twinning Induced Plasticity (TWIP) steels - a project on the strengthening mechanism in TWIP steels using EBSD, TEM and APT techniques.
  • Asymmetric rolling of AHSS - studying the effect of asymmetry on the mechanical properties of AHSS.
  • Thermomechanically produced steels with complex microstructure consisting of ultrafine ferrite and low temperature bainite. This is an ongoing project to design the microstructure with optimum balance between strength and elongation.

Ultrafine Grained and Nanostructured Steels

Our work on the ultrafine grained steels through strain induced transformation is widely known. We still maintain a small program on this, largely in collaboration with NIMS in Japan. Our present focus is to understand the fundamentals better and in particular the deformation structure evolution in the austenite prior to or during transformation using a range of in-situ techniques.

We also have a program related to the new nanostructured bainities developed by Bhadeshia and co-workers. We have produced a range of structures and are considering their dynamic properties as well as undertaking detailed microstructural characterization including APT. Another project is considering the strength ductility balance of ultrafine structured steels produced by a range of methods. This is linked to a more general program on nanostructured metals.

We have carried out a project on the severe plastic deformation of TWIP steel by ECAP to produce the nanostructure and to study the deformation mechanism as a function of accumulated strain.

Deformation, Precipitation and Recrystallisation during hot working

A number of projects have examined the deformation and dynamic and post deformation softening behaviour of steels. This has largely involved advanced use of our EBSD equipment to identify the key features of the microstructure evolution. We have also examined a range of model alloys and recently commenced new work related to strain induced precipitation in Nb microalloyed steels, particularly under multi-pass and strip mill conditions - areas that have not received much attention to date. We are also interested in the potential loss of Nb for latter precipitation strengthening in the production of thick plate. A current project is investigating the effect of asymmetric rolling on the mechanical properties and texture development of HSLA steels.

Texture Development

Most of this work has previously been related to warm rolling. However, with our new thrust into strip casting this research will consider a much broader range of conditions and microstructures.

Precipitation Hardening Fundamentals

We have recently commenced a program to re-evaluate precipitation hardening in HSLA steels. This has been driven by the recent work of JFE where they have produced a low C 780MPa grade and appear to also have a 980MPa grade. This is said to be through the control of the precipitate size and spacing. Some limited APT work by our group has confirmed much of this although it appears that other factors are also involved. In this new study we will more closely consider the interaction between phase transformation and precipitation for different alloy systems.

We have used a combination of EBSD, TEM and APT techniques to analyse a single ferrite grain with nano-particles, which enables correlation of different techniques. We have a strong collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA on this project.

Phase Transformations

This is largely linked to the TMCP of AHSS and will in the future focus on the potential to develop advanced steels through the strip casting or other near net shaped casting and TMCP routes. We are extending the TMCP TRIP steel work to consider other much higher strength microstructures. Also once we have the ability to make our own melts we will be pursuing other ideas related to standard TRIP compositions. Another thrust for this year will be TWIP steels and in particular designing the compositions for the balance between forming and crash conditions. We would also be interested in pursuing research related to the transformation of more basic TMCP plate and strip steels and using new modeling techniques combined with our excellent experimental capabilities.

The group is collaborating with the Max Planck Institute on the fundamentals of nano-bainite transformation using advanced microscopic techniques.

Strain Ageing

As well as work on bake hardening of AHSS, the group continues work related to strain ageing under wire drawing conditions. This includes developing a kinetic model as a function of deformation conditions, composition, temperature etc. We will also examine the various stages of ageing in AHSS using TEM and APT.

Roll Forming

This program involves developing improved models in conjunction with COPRA (a software supplier) and a range of industry partners. The steels to be considered range from simple C steels in the soft or recovery annealed condition, through to stainless steels. There is also some interest in considering advanced steels and shapes for the automotive industry.

Furnaces and Cooling

Our focus in this area is in the development of new fluid bed diffusion coatings that permit hard surface layers to be created on the final steel product at low temperatures. The lower the treatment temperature the less frequent are problems associated with distortion. We have developed mathematical and physical models of the process and are using these to support our commercialization efforts in this area.

Steel Strip Casting 

A major need for the steel industry is to develop new technologies with a markedly reduced environmental footprint, and to develop future products that also contribute to lower carbon emissions. Regardless of all of the developments in light metals or composites, steel will be the dominant structural material in the automotive and construction industries for at least the next decade.  While the production of strip currently has a high energy cost, direct thin strip casting offers an energy saving of up to 90% for the processing of liquid steel into final strip. In addition, the extremely high cooling rates achieved during strip casting offer unique opportunities to change the mechanical properties of the sheet.  It is possible to markedly change the microstructure of steel by controlling the solutes, precipitates, phases and transformation sequences, and we propose that the radically different thermal conditions experienced during strip casting offer us the opportunity to re-write alloy design philosophies that have been the mainstay of metallurgical practice for more than 50 years. The ultimate goal of this research theme is to utilise these unusual conditions experienced during strip casting to design new alloys that contain less environmentally harmful alloying additions, and to produce these alloys by the energy efficient strip casting  process.

Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

27th February 2015