Lithium-aluminium casting alloys and their associated metal-mould reactions
Aluminium - lithium alloys are specialist alloys used exclusively by the aerospace industry. They have properties that are favourable to the production of modern military aircraft. The addition of approximately 2.5 percent lithium to aluminium increases the strength characteristics of the new alloys by 10 percent. The same addition has the added advantage of decreasing the density of the resulting alloy by a similar percentage. The disadvantages associated with this alloy are primarily price and castability. The addition of 2.5 weight percent lithium to aluminium results in a price increase of 100% explaining the aerospace exclusivity. The processability of the alloys is restricted to ingot casting and wrought treatment but for complex components precision casting is required. Casting the alloys into sand and investment moulds creates a metal - mould reaction, the consequences of which are intolerable in the production of military hardware. The primary object of this project was to investigate and characterise the reactions occurring between the newly poured metal and surface of the mould and to propose a method of counteracting the metal - mould reaction. The constituents of standard sand and investment moulds were pyrolised with lithium metal in order to simplify the complex in-mould reaction and the products were studied by the solid state techniques of powder X-Ray diffraction and magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The results of this study showed that the order of reaction was: Organic reagents> > Silicate reagents> Non silicate reagents Alphaset and Betaset were the two organic binders used to prepare the sand moulds throughout this project. Studies were carried out to characterise these resins in order to determine the factors involved in their reaction with lithium. Analysis revealed that during the curing process the phenolic hydroxide groups are not reacted out and that a redox reaction takes place between these hydroxides and the lithium in the molten alloys. Casting experiments carried out to assess the protection afforded by various hydroxide protecting agents showed that modern effective, protecting chemicals such as bis-trimethyl silyl acetamide and hexamethyldisilazane did not inhibit the metal - mould reaction to a sufficiently high standard and that tri-methylchlorosilane was consistently the best performer. Tri-methyl chlorosilane has a simple functionalizing mechanism compared to other hydroxide protecting reagents and this factor is responsible for its superior inhibiting qualities. Comparative studies of 6Li and 7Li N.M.R. spectra (M.A.S. and `off angle') establish that, for solid state (and even solution) analytical purposes 6Li is the preferred nucleus. 6Li M.A.S.N.M.R. spectra were obtained for thermally treated laponite clay. At temperatures below 800oC both dehydrated and rehydrated samples were considered. The data are consistent with mobility of lithium ions from the trioctahedral clay sites at 600oC. The superior resolution achievable in 6Li M.A.S.N.M.R. is demonstrated in the analysis of a microwave prepared lithium exchanged clay where 6Li spectroscopy revelaed two lithium sites in comparison to 7Li M.A.S.N.M.R. which gave only a single lithium resonance.