Trip steels as smart sensor alloys.
Upon deformation, TRIP steels undergo progressive irreversible transformation from paramagnetic austenite to more thermodynamically stable, ferromagnetic αʹ-martensite. The change in magnetic permeability is readily detectable, and since TRIP steels also have excellent mechanical properties, this presents the opportunity for implementing cheap, robust structural health monitoring systems. However, the extent of martensitic transformation in TRIP steels is affected not only by the degree of deformation, but by environmental temperature at the time of deformation and strain rate. This creates inherent inaccuracy when implementing TRIP steels as sensor materials. In this thesis it has been demonstrated that it is possible to design TRIP steels that are less susceptible to these factors, show good deformation induced transformation, and can function simultaneously as sensors and structural elements. As-cast alloys were tested in compression, while annealed, hot-rolled and warm-rolled alloys were tested primarily in tension. There was considerable variation between alloys in rate of transformation with deformation. Martensitic transformation was evaluated magnetically and correlated with optical and scanning electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction results. Changes in magnetisation and magnetic permeability curves with deformation were characterised to ensure optimal electronic monitoring. Equations from literature for determining characteristic transformation temperatures, Ms and Md30 were evaluated experimentally for the alloy range of interest, and the best equations were selected to aid in the design of high alloy TRIP steels exhibiting strong transformation and low temperature sensitivity. Temperature sensitivity between alloys was found to vary as predicted. Temperature sensitivity was also compared in annealed, hot rolled and warm rolled conditions; the annealed condition showed the lowest sensitivity, and this is thought to be related to lower dislocation densities. Mining was targeted as a primary industry for application of these sensor systems because of the pressing need for greater safety and more efficient structural support at low cost. Two distinct devices for monitoring the structural health of mines were designed, built and tested, and a third was developed for the aerospace industry. Better understanding and control of the temperature sensitivity of martensitic transformation in TRIP steels is expected to aid not only structural health monitoring, but also the application of such materials to other areas of technology, such as sheet forming and high impact resistance applications. Although there are limitations on the extent to which TRIP steel transformation characteristics can be controlled, it was shown that they can be manipulated to enable successful implementation of new alloys for smart load or damage sensors. Practical, robust, low cost structural health monitoring sensors based on the smart properties of TRIP steels were shown to be feasible.