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Structural and magnetic characterization of plasma ion nitrided layer on 316L stainless steel alloy
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In this study, an FeCrNi alloy (316L stainless steel disc) was nitrided in a low-pressure R.F. plasma at 430 °C for 72 min under a gas mixture of 60% N2-40% H2. Structural, compositional and magnetic properties of the plasma nitrided layer was investigated by X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM) and magnetic force microscopy (MFM). The magnetic behaviour of the nitrided layer was also investigated with a vibrating sample magnetometer (VSM). Combined X-ray diffraction, cross-sectional SEM, AFM and MFM, as well as VSM analyses provide strong evidence for the formation of the γN phase, [γN-(Fe, Cr, Ni)], with mainly ferromagnetic characteristics. The uniform nature of the γN layer is clearly demonstrated by the XRD, cross-sectional SEM and AFM analyses. Based on the AFM and SEM data, the thickness of the γN layer is found to be ∼6 μm. According to the MFM and VSM analyses, ferromagnetism in the γN layer is revealed by the observation of stripe domain structures and the hysteresis loops. The cross-sectional MFM results demonstrate the ferromagnetic γN phase distributed across the plasma nitrided layer. The MFM images show variation in the size and form of the magnetic domains from one grain to another.