Grain refinement mechanism of nickel-based superalloy by severe plastic deformation - Mechanical machining case

Zhirong Liao, Mikhail Polyakov, Oriol Gavalda Diaz, Dragos Axinte, Gaurav Mohanty, Xavier Maeder, Johann Michler, Mark Hardy

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


This paper studied the formation mechanism of white layer of a next generation nickel-based superalloy formed under severe plastic deformation induced by a mechanical material removal process. A graded microstructure of the white layer in the nickel-based superalloy has been revealed for the first time, which is composed of (i) a “dynamic recrystallisation” layer formed by nanocrystalline (∼200 nm) grains at the vicinity of the surface and (ii) a “dynamic recovery” layer with subgrain microstructures extending further into the subsurface. The mechanism of surface grain refinement was identified based on the results obtained via crystallographic and chemical analysis, as well as in-situ micro-mechanics experiments in the scanning electron microscope. It is found that in the top surface layer not only grain refinement but also the γ′ phase dissolution occurs, changing drastically from the bulk material. Furthermore, it is shown how the high plastic strain and cutting temperature along the subsurface causes grain refinement in the white layer and grain elongation in the subsurface. The γ′ precipitates in the recrystallisation layer are dissolved during the machining process, while the ultra-high cooling rate suppresses the further precipitation of this phase, resulting in the supersaturation of γ grains or minimized γ′ precipitates in the top surface layer. Hence, the grain refinement does not result in an increase of mechanical stiffness but a deterioration of mechanical properties due to the dissolution of the strengthening phase γ’, which leads to a lower strength and increased ductility. Machining is generally treated as a cold-working process. However, according to our findings hot-working with dynamic recrystallisation and recovery, as well as phase evolution, occurs in the white layer of nickel-based superalloys.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-14
Number of pages13
JournalActa Materialia
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Grain refinement
  • Machining and surface integrity
  • Severe plastic deformation
  • Superalloys
  • White layer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Metals and Alloys


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