With a good work record and having "found my feet" studying my BSc ("Degree"), I felt the way forward was aiming higher.
Highly refined German and Japanese plate steels were pouring into Britain, converted in British pipemills and construction yards into products meeting client requirements. My research addressed - what can we do to help the British plate steel industry reclaim market share?
At the outset, the issue addressed was: these imported TMCP HSLA
(Thermo-Mechanically Controlled-Processed High-Strength Low-Alloy)
steels were expected to have good weldability - but not this good!!!
Compared to "classical" higher-carbon plate steel compositions...
With limited research resources - just me and a small budget - hence no chance to re-run the massive 1960's research (The Welding Institute; Frank Coe and colleagues), current scientists got their heads together to guess what was the best "target" to work at.
Their guess proved exactly correct, that susceptibility to hydrogen was unlikely to conceal the answer given the amount of research and knowledge on that topic, hence try looking at how hydrogen distributes and moves around in time. The answer did lay in that behaviour but was very unexpected.
Slight problem along the way though - there were no established
laboratory techniques, from the simplest to the most expensive and
sophisticated, which enables hydrogen distribution and movement in a
weld to be examined(!).
No problem - they had recruited me, and I soon delivered the required novel investigative techniques.
Providing the path to the answers discovered.
In the big picture of the commercial application of steels, the
unexpected massive bonus was:
what I found which explained the high weldability also explained the high resistance to "sour" crude oil (oil with a lot of acids and sulphides).
If you are going to stumble across an answer to another issue, this it the big one for steels. With millions of tonnes of TMCP steel a year going into pipelines because of the empirical observation that they survive quite "sour" oils, finding the technical explanation why this so is quite good.
(R. Smith, 24Oct2016)