Evolution of surface chemistry during sintering of water‐atomized iron and low‐alloyed steel powder
Paper i proceeding, 2020
Water-atomized iron and steel powder is commonly used as the base material for powder metallurgy (PM) of ferrous components. The powder surface chemistry is characterized by a thin surface oxide layer and more thermodynamically stable oxide particulates whose extent, distribution, and composition change during the sintering cycle due to a complex set of oxidation–reduction reactions. In this study, the surface chemistry of iron and steel powder was investigated by combined surface and thermal analysis. The progressive reduction of oxides was studied using model sintering cycles in hydrogen atmospheres in a thermogravimetric (TG) setup, with experiments ended at intermediate steps (500–1300°C) of the heating stage. The surface chemistry of the samples was then investigated by means of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) to reveal changes that occurred during heating. The results show that reduction of the surface oxide layer occurs at relatively lower temperature for the steel powder, attributed to an influence of chromium, which is supported by a strong increase in Cr content immediately after oxide layer reduction. The reduction of the stable oxide particulates was shifted to higher temperatures, reflecting their higher thermodynamic stability. A complementary vacuum annealing treatment at 800°C was performed in a furnace directly connected to the XPS instrument allowing for sample transfer in vacuum. The results showed that Fe oxides were completely reduced, with segregation and growth of Cr and Mn oxides on the particle surfaces. This underlines the sequential reduction of oxides during sintering that reflects the thermodynamic stability and availability of oxide-forming elements.