Duplex (DSS) and austenitic stainless steels (ASS) are frequently used in many energy related applications. The duplex grade is considered to have outstanding mechanical properties as well as good corrosion resistance.1 The austenitic phase combines high ductility, even at low temperatures, with sufficient strength, and therefore such materials are applied in storage and transport of high-pressure hydrogen.2-4 During service in acidic environments large amounts of hydrogen can ingress into the microstructure and induce many changes in the mechanical properties of the steel. Embrittlement of steels by hydrogen remains unclear even though this topic has been intensively studied for several decades. The reason for that lies in the inability to validate the proposed theoretical models in the sub-micron scale. Among the very few available methods nowadays, Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) enables a highly accurate mapping of hydrogen in the microstructure in a spatial resolution below 100 nm. 5
In the present work ToF-SIMS was used as a main tool in order to investigate the effect of deuterium on a duplex microstructure of lean and standard DSSs during and after the electrochemical charging process. Electrochemical charging simulates the service of a component in acidic environments under conditions of cathodic protection that are commonly applied to prevent corrosion reactions. ToF-SIMS after multivariate data analysis (MVA) was combined with high resolution topographic images and electron back-scattered diffraction (EBSD) data to characterize the structural changes. It was observed that the ferritic phase was affected almost identical in all steels whereas in the austenitic phase significant differences were obtained in the lean duplex in comparison to the standard DSS. The obtained results have been compared to similar investigations on a AISI 304L austenitic stainless steel. The advantage of the combined techniques is reflected by the ability to correlate the hydrogen distribution in the microstructure and the resulted phase transformation.