This thesis is devoted to the micromechanical study of the size-dependent strengthening in Transformation Induced Plasticity (TRIP) steels. Such grades of advanced high-strength steels are compelling for the automotive industry, due to their improved mechanical properties. Among others, they combine a good strength versus ductility balance. In this context, many research works have been carried out to study these grades of steels. In particular, from a numerical point of view, earlier studies within the framework of classical plasticity do not properly reproduce the strengthening levels characterizing TRIP steels and obtained experimentally.
In this study, the strain gradient plasticity theory presented by Fleck and Hutchinson (2001) is chosen to account for the strengthening effect resulting from the phase transformation. A two-dimensional embedded cell model of a simplified microstructure composed of small cylindrical metastable austenitic inclusions, partially undergoing the phase transformation, within a ferritic matrix is used.
First, the single-parameter version of the strain gradient plasticity theory under small strain assumption is used for the simulations. The impact of the higher order boundary conditions is assessed. It is shown that, when the plastic flow is unconstrained at the elasto-plastic boundaries, the transformation strain has no significant impact on the overall strengthening. The strengthening is essentially coming from the composite effect with a marked inclusion size effect resulting from the appearance during deformation of new boundaries (at the interface between parent and product phases) constraining the plastic flow.
Second, the multi-parameter version of the strain gradient plasticity theory, incorporating separately the rotational and extensional gradients in the formulation, is employed under small strain assumption. The effect of the plastic strain gradients resulting from the transformation strain is better captured. In particular, the results show a significant influence of the shear component of the transformation strain. An implicit confinement effect is revealed at the elasto-plastic boundaries which is partly responsible for the transformation strain effect. Size effects on the overall strengthening are also revealed, due to a combined size dependent effect of the transformation strain and of the evolving composite structure.
Third, the extension of the strain gradient plasticity theory to a finite strain description is applied. A significant effect of the transformation strain is obtained with the multi-parameter version of the theory as well as an optimal austenite grain size improving the damage resistance of the martensite, in agreement with the typical grain size of the current TRIP-assisted steels (Jacques et al., 2007).