Adding a large amount of light elements such as aluminum to steels is not a new concept recalling that several Fe-Al-Mn-C alloys were patented in 1950s for replacement of nickel or chromium in corrosion resistance steels. However, the so-called lightweight steels or low-density steels were revisited recently, which is driven by demands from the industry where steel has served as a major structural material. Strengthening without loss of ductility has been a triumph in steel research, but lowering the density of steel by mixing with light elements will be another prospect that may support the competitiveness against emerging alternatives such as magnesium alloys. In this paper, we review recent studies on lightweight steels, emphasizing the concept of alloy design for microstructures and mechanical properties. The influence of alloying elements on the phase constituents, mechanical properties and the change of density is critically reviewed. Deformation mechanisms of various lightweight steels are discussed as well. This paper provides a reason why the success of lightweight steels is strongly dependent on scientific achievements even though alloy development is closely related to industrial applications. Finally, we summarize some of the main directions for future investigations necessary for vitalizing this field of interest.
Keywords: 30.04; 30.05; TRIP steel; TWIP steel; lightweight steel; ordering; planar glide; κ-carbide.