To investigate the relationship between surface microstructure and wear mechanism in D2/U71Mn wheel-rail material under different contact stress conditions, rolling wear tests using a GPM-40 wear machine to simulate the wheel-rail operation was performed. After wear tests, an optical microscope (OM), scanning electron microscope (SEM) and micro-hardness testers were used to characterize the microstructure and fatigue wear cracks. The results show that the thickness of the plastic deformation layer and surface hardness is increased with the increase of contact stress. Under high contact stress condition (1200 MPa), the severe plastic deformation layer led to the formation of fatigue wear of wheel-rail samples. Under a contact stress of 700 MPa, the wear mechanism of samples is adhesive wear and wear rate is low. With the increase of contact stress, the fatigue cracks are gradually severe. Under a contact stress of 1200 MPa, the wear mechanism of samples becomes fatigue wear and the fatigue wear cracks cause the increase of wear rate. The fatigue wear can accelerate the wear failure of wheel-rail samples. The fatigue wear cracks of wheel samples are severer than that of rail samples due to both the rate of plastic strain and the content of proeutectoid ferrite.
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