electronic international standard serial number (EISSN)
Microstructural features of sintered steels, which comprise both phases and porosity, strongly condition the mechanical behaviour of the material under service conditions. Many research activities have dealt with this relationship since better understanding of the microstructure-property correlation is the key of improvement of current powder metallurgy (PM) steels. Up to now, fractographic investigation after testing has been successfully applied for this purpose and, more recently, the in situ analysis of crack evolution through the microstructure as well as some advanced computer assisted tools. However, there is still a lack of information about local mechanical behaviour and strain distributions at the microscale in relation to the local microstructure of these steels, i.e. which phases in heterogeneous PM microstructures contribute to localisation of plastic deformation or which phases can impede crack propagation during loading. In the present work, these questions are addressed through the combination of three techniques: (i) in situ tensile testing (performed in the SEM) to monitor crack initiation and propagation; (ii) digital image correlation technique to trace the progress of local strain distributions during loading; (iii) fractographic examination of the loaded samples. Three PM steels, all obtained from commercially available powders but presenting different microstructures, are examined: a ferritic-pearlitic Fe-C steel, a bainitic prealloyed Fe-Mo-C steel and a diffusion alloyed Fe-Ni-Cu-Mo-C steel, with more heterogeneous microstructure (ferrite, pearlite, upper and lower bainite, martensite and Ni rich austenite).