Revisiting the martensite/ferrite interface damage initiation mechanism: The key role of substructure boundary sliding

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Martensite/ferrite (M/F) interface damage plays a critical role in controlling failure of dual-phase (DP) steels and is commonly understood to originate from the large phase contrast between martensite and ferrite. This however conflicts with a few, recent observations, showing that considerable M/F interface damage initiation is often accompanied by apparent martensite island plasticity and weak M/F strain partitioning. In fact, martensite has a complex hierarchical structure which induces a strongly heterogeneous and orientation-dependent plastic response. Depending on the local stress state, (lath) martensite is presumed to be hard to deform based on common understanding. However, when favourably oriented, substructure boundary sliding can be triggered at a resolved shear stress which is comparable to that of ferrite. Moreover, careful measurements of the M/F interface structure indicate the occurrence of sharp martensite wedges protruding into the ferrite and clear steps in correspondence with lath boundaries, constituting a jagged M/F interfacial morphology that may have a large effect on the M/F interface behaviour. By taking into account the substructure and morphology features, which are usually overlooked in the literature, this contribution re-examines the M/F interface damage initiation mechanism. A systematic study is performed, which accounts for different loading conditions, phase contrasts, residual stresses/strains resulting from the preceding martensitic phase transformation, as well as the possible M/F interfacial morphologies. Crystal plasticity simulations are conducted to include inter-lath retained austenite (RA) films enabling the substructure boundary sliding. The results show that the substructure boundary sliding, which is the most favourable plastic deformation mode of lath martensite, can trigger M/F interface damage and hence control the failure behaviour of DP steels. The present finding may change the way in which M/F interface damage initiation is understood as a critical failure mechanism in DP steels.
Original languageEnglish
Article number116533
Number of pages17
JournalActa Materialia
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021


  • Crystal plasticity
  • Damage initiation
  • Dual-phase steel
  • Martensite/ferrite interface
  • Microstructural morphology
  • Substructure boundary sliding


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