Low oxygen content powders of high purity elemental Fe, Cr and Hf were produced in a glove box by mechanically filing the solid materials. Fe10Cr and Fe14Cr4Hf nanocrystalline alloy powders were processed using these elemental powders in conjunction with SPEX ball milling. The grain-size stability of the nanocrystalline alloy powders was investigated for selected annealing temperatures. High temperature stabilization can be achieved by Zener pinning (kinetic mechanism) or segregation of Hf to grain boundaries (thermodynamic mechanism). Solute drag mechanisms can be effective at lower annealing temperatures. Recent regular solution models developed by the authors predict that Hf would facilitate thermodynamic grain-size stabilization in Fe14Cr4Hf alloys at high temperatures. However Hf-base reactions such as intermetallic phase or oxide formation can favor kinetic stabilization and this can dominate over a contribution from thermodynamic stabilization. In contrast, grain-size stabilization in Fe10Cr alloy would be a result of solute drag by the Cr solutes at lower temperatures. The results from previous investigations on Fe10Cr and Fe14Cr4Hf nanocrystalline alloys were (unknowingly at the time) influenced by the fact that the commercially available high purity elemental powders used for SPEX ball mill processing contained significant amounts of oxygen impurity. The results obtained in this investigation using identical processing methods with low oxygen content powders for synthesizing the alloys provide further insight into their stabilization mechanisms
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