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Understanding cementite dissolution in pearlitic steels subjected to rolling-sliding contact loading: A combined experimental and theoretical study

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Cementite dissolution behavior of pearlitic steels subjected to rolling-sliding contact deformation is comprehensively investigated by combining experimental characterization and phase-field modeling. An elasto-plastic phase-field model, incorporating the elastic strain-induced free energy contribution from first-principles calculations and the plastic counterpart from a rolling-sliding contact finite element model assisted with a plastic strain accumulation model, is originally proposed to simulate the real-time evolution of cementite volume fraction, microstructure morphology and carbon distribution for different rolling cycles and contact depths. Upon experimental validations, the proposed model predicts more accurate and realistic results than Sauvage’s model. A three-stage behavior of cementite dissolution is also revealed, which well explains an experimentally observed significant cementite dissolution gradient along the depth direction. Besides, the effect of ferrite/cementite interface thickness and the initial lamellae thickness of cementite on cementite dissolution kinetics is studied. The proposed phase-field model can not only help understand the mechanism of cementite dissolution, but also give new sights into quantitative predictions of the mechanical properties and even the rolling contact fatigue life of pearlitic rail steels in service.

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