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Metallographic Heat Treated Steel Etchants

The most common etchants for heat treated steels or martensitic microstructures contain picric acid dissolved in alcohol and acids. A good resouce for additional etchants can be found with the etchant database provided by PACE Technologies.

PACE Technologies Etchant Database Click here to get order

CAUTION: Safety is very important when etching. Be sure to wear the appropriate protective clothing and observe all WARNINGS on chemical manufacuters SDS (Safety Data Sheets). Also review the COMMENTS and CONDITIONS Section for each etchant.

Sample Preparation:
Both heat treated and un-heat treated steels must be properly prepared to reveal the true metallographic microstructure. A number of recommended procedures can be found at the following links:

PACE Technologies Recommended Preparation for Hardened Steel PACE Technologies Metallographic MET-MANUAL Link

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Recommended Etch
ants
Etchant Conc. Conditions Comments
Picral:
Ethanol
Picric acid

100 ml
2-4 gms
Seconds to minutes For heat treated steels
Do not let etchant dry-explosive
Ethanol
Nitric acid
Hydrochloric acid
Picric acid
80 ml
10 ml
10 ml
1 gm
Seconds to minutes Grain boundaries
Nital:
Ethanol
Nitric acid

100 ml
1-10 ml
Seconds to minutes Do not exceed 10% nitric acid -explosive

Metallographic micrograph of high carbon steel
1095 High Carbon Steel (furnace cooled), etched, Mag. 100X

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