• Confocal microscopy;
  • low-carbon steel;
  • solidification;
  • solid/liquid interface instability


Solidification microstructure is a defining link between production techniques and the mechanical properties of metals and in particular steel. Due to the difficulty of conducting solidification studies at high temperature, knowledge of the development of solidification microstructure in steel is scarce. In this study, a laser-scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM) has been used to observe in situ and in real-time the planar to cellular to dendritic transition of the progressing solid/liquid interface in low carbon steel. Because the in situ observations in the laser-scanning confocal microscopy are restricted to the surface, the effect of sample thickness on surface observations was determined. Moreover, the effect of cooling rate and alloy composition on the planar to cellular interface transition was investigated. In the low-alloyed, low-carbon steel studied, the cooling rate does not seem to have an effect on the spacing of the cellular microstructure. However, in the presence of copper and manganese, the cell spacing decreased at higher cooling rates. Higher concentrations of copper in steel resulted on an increased cell spacing at the same cooling rates.