Recent Advances in Understanding Metal Dusting: A Review

D.J. Young, J. Zhang, C. Geers, M. Schütze

Recent experimental investigations have widened the understanding of metal dusting significantly. Microscopic observations have been used to dissect dusting mechanisms. Iron dusts by growing a cementite surface scale, which catalyses graphite nucleation and growth. The resulting volume expansion leads to cementite disintegration. Cementite formation on iron can be suppressed by alloying with germanium. Nonetheless, dusting occurs via the direct growth of graphite into the metal, producing nanoparticles of ferrite. This process is faster, because carbon diffusion is more rapid in α-Fe than in Fe3C. Austenitic materials cannot form cementite, and dust via formation of graphite at external surfaces and interior grain boundaries. The coke deposit consists of carbon nanotubes with austenite particles at their tips, or graphite particles encapsulating austenite. TEM studies demonstrate the inward growth of graphite within the metal interior. It is therefore concluded that the dusting mechanism of austenitic materials like high alloy Cr–Ni steels and Ni base materials is one of graphite nucleation and growth within the near surface metal. In all alloys examined, both ferritic and austenitic, the principal mass transfer process is inward diffusion of carbon. Alloying iron with nickel leads to a transformation from one mechanism with carbide formation to the other without. Copper alloying in nickel and high nickel content stainless steels strongly suppresses graphite nucleation, as does also an intermetallic Ni–Sn phase, thereby reducing greatly the overall dusting rate. A surface layer of intermetallic Ni–Sn Fe-base materials facilitates the formation of a Fe3SnC surface scale which also prevents coking and metal dusting. Current understanding of the roles of temperature, gas composition and surface oxides on dusting rates are summarised. Finally, protection against metal dusting by coatings is discussed in terms of their effects on catalysis of carbon deposition, and on protective oxide formation.

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