Stainless steels have good corrosion resistance in many environments but welding or aging can decrease their resistance. This work focused on the effect of aging time and ultrasonic nano-crystal surface modification on the passivation behavior of 316L stainless steel. In the case of slightly sensitized 316L stainless steel, increasing the aging time drastically decreased the pitting potential, increased the passive current density, and decreased the resistance of the passive film, even though aging did not form chromium carbide and a chromium depletion zone. This behavior is due to the micro-galvanic corrosion between the matrix and carbon segregated area, and this shows the importance of carbon segregation in grain boundaries to the pitting corrosion resistance of stainless steel, in addition to the formation of the chromium depletion zone. UNSM (Ultrasonic Nano Crystal Surface Modification)-treatment to the slightly sensitized 316L stainless steel increased the pitting potential, decreased the passive current density, and increased the resistance of the passive film. However, in the case of heavily sensitized 316L stainless steel, UNSM-treatment decreased the pitting potential, increased the passive current density, and decreased the resistance of the passive film. This behavior is due to the dual effects of the UNSM-treatment. That is, the UNSM-treatment reduced the carbon segregation, regardless of whether the stainless steel 316L was slightly or heavily sensitized. However, since this treatment made mechanical flaws in the outer surface in the case of the heavily sensitized stainless steel, UNSM-treatment may eliminate chromium carbide, and this flaw can be a pitting initiation site, and therefore decrease the pitting corrosion resistance.
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