Bainite transformation is a kinetic process that involves complex solid diffusion and phase structure evolution. This research systematically studies the bainite transformation of austempered 4140 steel in a wide range of isothermal temperatures, in which four bainite phases structures were generated: upper bainite; mixed upper bainite and lower bainite; lower bainite and mixed lower bainite and martensite. The kinetics of bainite transformation has been described with a linear trend using an Avrami n-value. It was found that the bainitic ferrite sheaves grow with widthwise preference. The sheaves are stable when half-grown and are variable in length, due to austenite size limit or soft/hard impingement, or autocatalytic nucleation, or these conditions combined. The full-grown upper/lower bainite sheaves were found to be 1.9 μm/1.2 μm in width under the conditions of this study. Each individual bainite sheave is lath-like instead of wedge-like. The upper bainite sheaves mostly appear as broad-short-coarse lath, while the lower bainite sheaves appear as narrow-long-fine lath. The overall bainite transformation activation energy ranges from 50–167 kJ/mol.
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