Experimental study of microstructure changes due to low cycle fatigue of a steel nanocrystallised by Surface Mechanical Attrition Treatment (SMAT)
Electron BackScatter Diffraction technique is used to characterize the microstructure of a 316L steel generated by Surface Mechanical Attrition Treatment (SMAT) before and after low cycle fatigue tests. A grain size gradient is generated from the top surface to the interior of the samples after SMAT so that three main regions can be distinguished below the treated surface: (i) the ultra-fine grain area within 5 µm under the top surface with preferably oriented grains, (ii) the intermediate area where the original grains are partially transformed, and (iii) the edge periphery area where the original grains are just mechanically deformed with the presence of plastic slips. Fatigue tests show that cyclic loading does not change the grain orientation spread and does not activate any plastic slip in the ultra-fine grain top surface area induced by SMAT. On the opposite, in the plastically SMAT affected region including the intermediate area and the edge periphery area, new slip systems are activated by low cycle fatigue while the grain orientation spread is increased. These results represent a first very interesting step towards the characterization and understanding of mechanical mechanisms involved during the fatigue of a grain size gradient material.