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The impact of plasma nitriding on the microstructure and the hardness of a recently developed 4 wt.-% medium manganese steel are presented. In contrast to standard quench and tempering steels, the investigated material achieves its martensitic microstructure by air-cooling from the forging heat, which enables the reduction of the carbon footprint of the forged components. The influence of nitriding on this grade of steel has not been investigated so far, but fundamental differences in comparison to standard nitriding steels are expected due to the increased manganese concentration. To address this issue, nitriding treatments with different temperatures (350 °C, 580 °C and 650 °C) have been performed, followed by examinations of the microstructure, the phase composition, the obtained hardness profiles and the tensile properties of the bulk material after nitriding, accompanied by thermodynamic equilibrium calculations. It is demonstrated that after nitriding at 580 °C similar hardness profiles like standard nitriding steels are achieved, with a shorter process as austenitization and hardening were omitted, reaching a hardness of approximately 950 HV0.1. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that austenite can be stabilized by manganese and nitrogen partitioning to room temperature during nitriding in the intercritical phase region.
plasma nitriding; medium manganese steels; surface treatment; emission reduction; nitriding; plasmanitrieren; stähle mit mittlerem mangangehalt; oberflächenbehandlung; emissionsminderung; nitrieren