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Microstructural and mechanical characterization of nitrogen ion implanted layer on 316L stainless steel
Nitrogen ion implantation can be used to improve surface mechanical properties (hardness, wear, friction) of stainless steels by modifying the near-surface layers of these materials. In this study, a medical grade FeCrNi alloy (316L stainless steel plate) was implanted with 85 keV nitrogen ions to a high fluence of 1 × 1018N2+ / cm2 at a substrate temperature <200 °C in an industrial implantation facility. The N implanted layer microstructures, thicknesses and strengths were studied by a combination of X-ray diffraction (XRD), conversion electron Mössbauer spectroscopy (CEMS), atomic force microscopy (AFM) and nanohardness measurements. AFM was also used for the surface roughness analysis of the implanted as well as polished materials. The CEMS analysis indicate that the N implanted layer is ∼200 nm thick and is composed of ε-(Fe,Cr,Ni)2+xN-like nitride phase with mainly paramagnetic characteristics. The nanohardness measurements clearly indicate an enhanced hardness behaviour for the N implanted layer. It is found that the implanted layer hardness is increased by a factor of 1.5 in comparison to that of the substrate material. The increased hardness resulting from nitrogen implantation is attributed to the formation of ε nitride phase.