What causes hardness in steel? How heat treatment alters properties of steel?

Answer: The shape and distribution of the carbides in the iron determines the hardness of the steel. Carbides can be dissolved in austenite is the basis of the heat treatment of steel. If steel is heated above the A critical temperature to dissolve all the carbides, and then cooled, suitable cooling through the cooling range will produce the desired size and distribution of carbides in the ferrite, imparting different properties.