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Etching reagent To reveal Composition Remarks

60 mL H2NO3
Watertown For carbon and stainless steels, 50 mL H2O Use at 71–82 °C (160–180 °F) for
arsenal general structure 10–60 min. Use with cut or ground
12 mL H2SO4 surfaces.

38 mL HCl
Dilute aqua For high-alloy steels and iron- 25 mL H2O Time: 10–15 min at room
regia cobalt high-temperature alloys temperature
25 ml HNO3

50 mL HCl
Piearcy and co- Maraging steel macrostructure 60 mL lactic Use at room temperature.
workers acid

20 mL HNO3

10 mL HCl
Burg and Weiss Nitriding steels macrostructure 85 mL H2O Use at 71 °C (160°F) for 10 min.

15 mL
Marble's General etch for austenitic stainless 50 mL H2O Solution can be heated.
reagent steel
10 g CuSO4

50 mL HCl
Miller and Welds and general macrostructure 90 mL H2O Use electrolytically with polished
Houston of austenitic stainless steel surface. Platinum or stainless steel
10 g CrO3 cathode. Use at 16–38 °C (60–100
°F), 6 V, for 2–7 min.
Loria As-cast structure and grain size in 20 mL H2O Use at room temperature.
(nitrosulfuric cast steels
acid etch) 20 mL HNO3

10 mL H2SO4
Nielsen Stress-corrosion cracks in austenitic 95 mL methyl Use at room temperature for
stainless steel alcohol approximately 1 h. Crack pattern
vividly revealed
5 mL bromine

Table 8 Major microstructure etchants for common phases and constituents in ferrous materials

Etching reagent Composition Remarks

Ferrite grain boundaries
Nital 1–5 mL HNO3 (nitric acid) A 2% solution is recommended; usually samples are
etched 10–20 s with a gentle agitation and the polished
99–95 mL ethyl alcohol surface facing upward to reveal the ferrite grain
boundaries. In order to reveal all the grain boundaries,
the last polishing step should be with silicon dioxide for
at least 60 s, and the sample should then be etched
shortly after polishing, before a passive layer forms,