The role of zirconium in microalloyed steels

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Recently there has been a renewed interest in the addition of zirconium to
microalloyed steels. It has been used since the early 1920's, but has never been
universally employed, as have niobium, titanium or vanadium. The functions of
zirconium in steelmaking are associated with a strong chemical affinity, in decreasing order, for oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur and carbon. Historically, the main use of additions of zirconium to steel was for combination preferentially with sulphur and so avoid the formation of manganese sulphide, known to have a deleterious influence of the impact toughness of wrought and welded steel. Modern steelmaking techniques have also raised the possibility that zirconium additions can reduce the austenite grain size and increase dispersion strengthening, due to precipitation of zirconium carbonitrides, or in high nitrogen vanadium-zirconium steels, vanadium nitride. This review gathers
information on the compounds of zirconium identified in steels together with
crystallographic data and solubility equations. Also brief accounts of the role of
sulphides and particles in general on austenite grain size control and toughness are included.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-294
Number of pages29
JournalMaterials Science and Technology
Issue number3
Early online date17 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


  • zirconium compounds
  • mechanical properties
  • impact
  • microstructure

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