Cleavage fracture of the V and Ti-V microalloyed forging steels was investigated by the four-point bending testing of the notched specimens of Griffith-Owen's type at -196 °C, in conjunction with the finite element analysis and the fractographic examination by scanning electron microscopy. To assess the mixed microstructure consisting mostly of the acicular ferrite, alongside proeutectoid ferrite grains and pearlite, the samples were held at 1250 °C for 30 min and subsequently cooled instill air. Cleavage fracture was initiated in the matrix under the high plastic strains near the notch root of the four-point bending specimens without the participation of the second phase particles in the process. Estimated values of the effective surface energy for the V and the Ti-V microalloyed steel of 37 Jm-2 and 74 Jm-2, respectively, and the related increase of local critical fracture stress were attributed to the increased content of the acicular ferrite. It was concluded that the observed increase of the local stress for cleavage crack propagation through the matrix was due to the increased number of the high angle boundaries, but also that the acicular ferrite affects the cleavage fracture mechanism by its characteristic stress-strain response with relatively low yield strength and considerable ductility at -196 °C.
Keywords: acicular ferrite; cleavage fracture stress; heterogeneous microstructure; medium carbon forging steel; microalloyed steel.