Neutron scattering in combination with scanning electron and atomic force microscopy were employed to quantitatively resolve elemental composition, nano- through meso- to metallurgical structures and surface characteristics of two commercial stainless steel orthodontic archwires—G&H and Azdent. The obtained bulk composition confirmed that both samples are made of metastable austenitic stainless steel type AISI 304. The neutron technique’s higher detection sensitivity to alloying elements facilitated the quantitative determination of the composition factor (CF), and the pitting resistance equivalent number (PREN) for predicting austenite stability and pitting-corrosion resistance, respectively. Simultaneous neutron diffraction analyses revealed that both samples contained additional martensite phase due to strain-induced martensite transformation. The unexpectedly high martensite content (46.20 vol%) in G&H was caused by combination of lower austenite stability (CF = 17.37, p
= .03), excessive cold working and inadequate thermal treatment during material processing. Together, those results assist in revealing alloying recipes and processing history, and relating these with corrosion resistance and mechanical properties. The present methodology has allowed access to unprecedented length-scale (μm to sub-nm) resolution, accessing nano- through meso-scopic properties. It is envisaged that such an approach can be extended to the study and design of other metallic (bio)materials used in medical sciences, dentistry and beyond.
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