Effects of hydrogen in an aluminium-magnesium-silicon alloy during the production of extrusion ingots
Hydrogen causes defects, for which aluminiurn alloy products are rejected. The behaviour of hydrogen in aluminium-magnesium-silicon alloy extrusion ingots, has been studied throughout the course of manufacture from freshly reduced aluminium. It is shown that hydrogen in the liquid metal is produced by temperature-dependent reaction between the metal and water vapour in the atmosphere. As the metal is received from the reduction cells, its temperature is -850 'C and its hydrogen content, >0.4 cm3/100 g, is too high for casting sound ingots. The metal is transferred first to a so-called melting furnace, where it is alloyed and stirred, thence to a holding furnace, where the composition is adjusted, the metal is degassed by gas sparging and allowed to settle before casting. The metal cools throughout these operations and as the temperature falls, the calculated value for the hydrogen content in equilibrium with the atmosphere falls in response to the reduced hydrogen solubility. The actual hydrogen content of the metal exhibited marked hysteresis in following the equilibrium value. Significant reduction of the hydrogen content occurred only when the metal was agitated. The hydrogen content never fell below the equilibrium value even during the nominal degassing operation, leading to the conclusion that gas sparging in a furnace does not positively remove hydrogen but only assists the equilibration. The hot-top DC casting process yielded a 8 m x 0.18 m diameter ingot with a virtually uniform hydrogen content. When this ingot was homogenised by heating it to 590˚C in a 7h cycle, a significant proportion of the hydrogen content was lost from the surface zone. By matching the loss to a theoretical model assuming diffusion control, it was shown that the loss of hydrogen is attenuated by trapping in micropores. The effects of simulated industrial atmospheres on the loss or absorption of hydrogen by the solid alloy were investigated in an extended series of laboratory heat-treatments. The interaction of the metal with these atmospheres was found to be determined by the nature of the oxide films formed and therefore the films were investigated by XPS and SIMS surface analysis techniques. In clean atmospheres the absorption or loss of hydrogen was determined by the balance between inward migration of protons and outward diffusion of hydrogen atoms through the oxide. Pollution of the air by chlorine or especially sulphur stimulated hydrogen absorption to a degree which seriously damaged the metal by pore growth. These effects are explained by modified compositions and structures in the surface oxide.