Heat Treatments: Cryogenic
engineering fundamentals Cryogenic Treatment
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Introduction

Cryogenics, or deep freezing is done to make sure there is no retained Austenite during quenching. When steel is at the hardening temperature, there is a solid solution of Carbon and Iron, known as Austenite. The amount of Martensite formed at quenching is a function of the lowest temperature encountered. At any given temperature of quenching there is a certain amount of Martensite and the balance is untransformed Austenite. This untransformed austenite is very brittle and can cause loss of strength or hardness, dimensional instability, or cracking.

Quenches are usually done to room temperature. Most medium carbon steels and low alloy steels undergo transformation to 100 % Martensite at room temperature. However, high carbon and high alloy steels have retained Austenite at room temperature. To eliminate retained Austenite, the temperature has to be lowered.

In Cryogenic treatment the material is subject to deep freeze temperatures of as low as -185°C (-301°F), but usually -75°C (-103°F) is sufficient. The Austenite is unstable at this temperature, and the whole structures becomes Martensite. This is the reason to use Cryogenic treatment.

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