The idea of duplex stainless steel dates back to the 1920s with the first cast being made at Avesta in Sweden in 1930. However, it is only in the last 30 years that duplex stainless steel have begun to “take off” in a significant way. This is mainly due to advances in steelmaking techniques particularly with respect to control of nitrogen content.
The standard austenitic stainless steel like 304 (1.4301) and ferritic stainless steel like 430 are relatively easy to make and to fabricate. As their names imply, they consist mainly of one phase, austenite or ferrite. Although these types are fine for a wide range of applications, there are some important technical weaknesses in both types:
Austenitic stainless steel– low strength (200 MPa 0.2% PS in solution annealed condition), low resistance to stress corrosion cracking
Ferritic stainless steel– low strength (a bit higher than austenitic, 250 MPa 0.2% PS), poor weldability in thick sections, poor lowtemperature toughness
The basic idea of duplex stainless steel is to produce a chemical composition that leads to an approximately equal mixture of ferrite and austenite. This balance of phases provides the following:
- Higher strength – The range of 0.2% PS for the current duplex stainless steel grades is from 400 – 550 MPa. This can lead to reduced section thicknesses and therefore to reduced weight. This advantage is particularly significant for applications such as:
o Pressure Vessel and Storage Tanks
o Structural Applications e.g. bridges
- Good weldability in thick sections – Not as straightforward as austenitics but much better than ferritics.
- Good toughness – Much better than ferritics particularly at low temperature, typically down to minus 50 deg C, stretching to minus 80 deg C.
- Resistance to stress corrosion cracking – Standard austenitic stainless steels are particularly prone to this type of corrosion. The kind of applications where this advantage is important include:
o Hot water tanks
o Brewing tanks
o Process plant
o Swimming pool structures
Source: Zhejiang Yaang Pipe Industry Co., Limited (www.yaang.com)