This paper examines the effects of TiC and NbC precipitation and prior cold rolling on the shape memory behaviour of an iron-based alloy. A precipitate-free alloy was used as a reference to investigate the relative contributions of prior-deformation and precipitation on shape memory. Heat treatment of the Nb- and Ti-containing alloys at 700 °C and 800 °C resulted in carbide precipitates between 120 nm and 220 nm in diameter. Bend testing of these samples showed a marginal increase in shape memory compared to the precipitate-free alloy. Under these conditions TiC precipitation exhibited slightly better shape memory than for NbC. However, this small increase was over-shadowed by the marked increase in shape memory that can be produced by subjecting the alloys to cold rolling followed by recovery annealing. When processed in this way, fine carbides are formed in the Ti- and Nb-containing alloys during the heat treatment. For particles >25 nm in diameter the shape memory is unaffected, but, it was found that small <5 nm particles have a detrimental effect on shape memory due to pinning of the martensite plates, thereby inhibiting their reversion to austenite. The optimum shape memory was observed in the precipitate-free alloy after cold rolling and recovery annealing.
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