Magnetic Barkhausen noise (MBN) was used to characterize the progress of austenite to martensite phase transformation while cooling steel specimens, using a conventional Barkhausen noise emission setup stimulated by an alternating magnetic field. The phase transformation was also followed by electrical resistivity measurements and by optical and scanning electron microscopy. MBN measurements on a AISI D2 tool steel austenitized at 1473 K and cooled to liquid nitrogen temperature presented a clear change near 225 K during cooling, corresponding to the MS (martensite start) temperature, as confirmed by resistivity measurements. Analysis of the resulting signals suggested a novel experimental technique that measures spontaneous magnetic emission during transformation, in the absence of any external field. Spontaneous magnetic noise emission measurements were registered in situ while cooling an initially austenitic sample in liquid nitrogen, showing that local microstructural changes, corresponding to an avalanche or burst phenomena, could be detected. This spontaneous magnetic emission (SME) can thus be considered a new experimental tool for the study of martensite transformations in ferrous alloys, at the same level as acoustic emission.
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The authors acknowledge financial support granted by CAPES (Project 052/08), CNPq and FAPESP. Dr. J. R. C. Guimarães is gratefully acknowledged for the valuable discussions.