A nano-/ultrafine grain gradient microstructure, which is composed of high-angle grain boundaries (HAGBs) and low-angle grain boundaries or subgrains of dislocation–twin, was fabricated in Zircaloy-4 using surface mechanical rolling treatment (SMRT). Thermal stability of gradient microstructure has been investigated through characterizing the evolution of microstructure during post-SMRT annealing treatment from 400 to 600 °C using optical microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. Experimental results show that the gradient microstructure exhibits a good thermal stability at 400 °C, since the overall grain size remains similar, except a decrease in dislocation density due to recovery. In comparison, a hierarchical microstructure is formed after annealing at 600 °C. An obvious grain growth was observed at the depth of 50 μm. The activation energy for grain growth of nanograined Zircaloy-4 is estimated to be ~ 161 kJ/mol between 400 and 600 °C. Nano-/ultrafine grains predominantly consisting of HAGBs have the highest thermal stability. Both yield strength and ultimate tensile strength of Zircaloy-4 decrease due to anneal, specifically at 600 °C.
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The authors gratefully thank the support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51671158, 51621063, 51471129), 973 Program of China (2014CB644003), and the 111 Project 2.0 (PB2018008).
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Xin, C., Yang, D., Sun, Q. et al. Thermal stability of nanogradient microstructure produced by surface mechanical rolling treatment in Zircaloy-4. J Mater Sci 55, 4926–4939 (2020) doi:10.1007/s10853-019-04303-z