Surface mechanical attrition treatment (SMAT) was performed on a reduced ferritic/martensitic (RAFM) steel to form a nanostructured (NS) layer on the surface of the sample. Both electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) and TEM were used to investigate the microstructure evolution during SMAT. The experimental results showed that there were three different zones after SMAT: (i) The "ultrafine grain" (UFG) zone, observed at the top-most surface region, (ii) the "transition zone" in which the original grains were fragmented under the severe plastic deformation and (iii) the "deformed zone" in which the original grains were simply deformed. The average grain sizes increased rapidly with the increase of depth, while the Vickers hardness decreased with the increase of depth, and this phenomenon could be explained in terms of boundary strengthening and dislocation strengthening. The number fractions of medium-angle grain boundaries (MAGBs) and medium-high-angle grain boundaries (MHAGBs) in UFG zones were larger than those in the transition zone and the deformed zone. However, the number fraction of the low-angle grain boundaries (LAGBs) was extremely small in all the zones after SMAT, especially in the transition zone.
Keywords: EBSD; misorientation distribution; reduced ferritic/martensitic steel; severe plastic deformation.