A Comparison of Mechanical Properties and Hydrogen Embrittlement Resistance of Austempered vs Quenched and Tempered 4340 Steel
This study was conducted to compare the hydrogen embrittlement (HE) resistance of austempered 4340 steel with quenched and tempered (Q&T) 4340 steel with an identical yield strength (YS) of 1340 MPa (194 ksi). A baseline comparison showed that the austempered steel with a lower bainite microstructure exhibited higher hardness, tensile strengths, Charpy V-notch (CVN) impact toughness, and ductility at both low 233 K (-40 F) and ambient temperatures, as compared to the Q&T steel with a martensite microstructure. After machining and just prior to testing, subsized CVN specimens and notched bend specimens were immersed in hydrochloric acid-water baths. The HE resistance was higher for the austempered steel than the Q&T steel. No differences in room-temperature CVN energy resulted from hydrogen charging of the austempered and Q&T steels vs their unexposed counterparts. However, in the notched bend specimens, the hydrogen charging caused significant peak load decreases (40 pct) for the Q&T steel, while the austempered steel exhibited only small (6 pct) decreases in peak load. Intergranular (IG) fracture occurred solely in the charged Q&T bend samples, which is further evidence of their embrittlement.