Carburization is a phenomenon where carbon is incorporated into the material. Carbon bonds readily with chromium and chromium carbides will be formed, especially at the grain boundaries. This leads to embrittlement of the material. The bonding of chromium to carbon results in chromium depletion in the matrix, reducing the resistance of the metal to oxidation and sulphidation.

Problems with carburization can occur in processes where gas mixtures containing CO or hydrocarbons, such as methane, ethane, propane and naphtha, come into contact with the material at high temperature.

The extent of carburization will depend on the carbon and oxygen contents of the gas and on the chemical composition of the material.

Carburization is a problem, for instance, in steam reforming plants and cracking furnaces used in ethylene production.

Green rot and catastrophic carburization (metal dusting)

Green rot and catastrophic carburization are two special phenomena connected with carburizing atmospheres. Problems with green rot and catastrophic carburization involve a very rapid disintegration of the material.

Effect of alloying elements

Good resistance to carburization tends to go hand in hand with oxidation resistance. Increased contents of chromium (Cr), silicon (Si), nickel (Ni) and aluminium (Al) increase resistance. Just as with oxidation, the addition of rare earth metals and reactive elements such as titanium (Ti), zirconium (Zr) and yttrium (Y) has a highly positive resistance effect.

Grades with high resistance to carburization

The following grades have very high or excellent resistance to both carburization and oxidation:

  • Sandvik 4C54
  • Sandvik 253 MA*
  • Sandvik 353 MA*
  • Sandvik 7RE10
  • Sanicro 31HT
  • Sanicro 70
  • Sandvik APMT

Material datasheets for Sandvik grades

Facts in brief about carburization

  • Carburization may occur in gas mixtures containing CO and hydrocarbons, e.g. CH4, C2H6, C3H8 and naphtha
  • Cr, Si, Al, Ni, rare earth metals and reactive elements such as Ti, Zr and Y are beneficial to a material's resistance to carburization
  • Grades with high resistance to carburization also have high resistance to oxidation

* 253 MA and 353 MA are trademarks owned by Outokumpu OY