Understanding the tempering behavior of medium carbon steels is mandatory if their mechanical properties are to be improved. For an optimal technology to be developed for this purpose, a substantial experimental basis is needed to extract quantitative information on the microstructure of the tempered material. This paper reports on the characterization of microstructural changes induced by tempering in medium-carbon steels alloyed with Si, Cr, Cu, and Mn using state-of-the-art experimental techniques. Complementarities among these techniques are highlighted. The evolution of transition carbides, cementite, and copper precipitates is described using data from X-ray diffraction, small and ultra-small angle neutron diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, and dilatometry observation. The effects of silicon, chromium, and copper on the mechanism of carbide and copper precipitation are discussed. The considerable changes found in the size and volume of copper precipitates correlate well with the difference in the yield stress between tempered steels with and without copper.
Keywords: SANS; TEM; USANS; XRD; carbides; copper precipitates; dilatometry; medium carbon steels; microstructure; tempering.