A study was performed to determine the cause of an abnormally low fracture toughness of an AISI 8640 resulfurized steel. The embrittlement effects of phosphorus and arsenic on this steel heat-treated to a lower bainitic structure were studied by employing fracture toughness tests, Charpy impact tests, X-ray fluorescent spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The results showed that the steel was embrittled by phosphorus at prior austenite gram boundaries in a manner similar to the tempered martensite embrittlement (TME) phenomenon. Arsenic is also believed to be involved in the embrittlement effect, specifically as related to producing a reduction in the upper shelf Charpy impact energy. Embrittlement was manifested by a reduced fracture toughness, an increase in the Charpy transition temperature, and intergranular fracture.
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