Carbide Formation

Steel can have a carbon content between 0.002% and 2.06%. The more carbon there is in the steel, the harder and stronger the material becomes. At certain temperatures and a corresponding carbon saturation, iron carbide (Fe3C) can form in the steel structure.


Iron carbide is also called cementite. This is a combination of iron and carbon that crystallizes out of the melt at certain temperatures. The formation of cementite as well as the different types of microstructure is explained in detail in our article about the iron-carbon diagram.

However, cementite is not the only carbide that is important in steel production. The alloying elements chromium, vanadium, tungsten and molybdenum are strong carbide formers and increase the hardness and wear resistance of the steel. Silicon, on the other hand, promotes graphite precipitation and thus reduces the formation of carbides.

See also

Accompanying Elements

Steel does not only consist of iron and carbon. Other elements can influence the properties of steel.

Read more
Alloying Elements

There is a large number of different alloying elements. Each one influences the material properties.

Read more
Brinell hardness test

Performing the hardness test by means of a ball pressure test according to the Swedish engineer Johann August Brinell.

Read more

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