In the present work, the nanostructured bainitic microstructures were obtained at the surfaces of a carburized steel and a high-C steel. The rolling contact fatigue (RCF) performances of the two alloy steels with the same volume fraction of undissolved carbide were studied under lubrication. Results show that the RCF life of the carburized nanostructured bainitic steel is superior to that of the high-C nanostructured bainitic steel in spite of the chemical composition, phase constituent, plate thickness of bainitic ferrite, hardness, and residual compressive stress value of the contact surfaces of the two steels under roughly similar conditions. The excellent RCF performance of the carburized nanostructured bainitic steel is mainly attributed to the following reasons: finer carbide dispersion distribution in the top surface, the higher residual compressive stress values in the carburized layer, the deeper residual compressive stress layer, the higher work hardening ability, the larger amount of retained austenite transforming into martensite at the surface and the more stable untransformed retained austenite left in the top surface of the steel.
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