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Title: Characterisation and mechanical properties of bulk nanostrictured Al-based composites for high temperature applications
Author: Pedrazzini, Stella
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 6327
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Rapidly solidified nanoquasicrystalline Al93Fe3Cr2Ti2 at% alloy has previously shown outstanding mechanical performance and microstructural stability up to elevated temperatures. Despite this, no in-depth study had previously been performed assessing the active strengthening mechanisms, the long term microstructural stability and the effect of plastic deformation at elevated temperature to simulate the production methods utilised for engineering applications. The current project analysed eight bars consisting of a nanoquasicrystalline Al93Fe3Cr2Ti2 at% alloy matrix with varying amounts of pure Al fibres, produced through gas atomisation and warm extrusion. Microstructural characterisation and thermal analysis of the as-atomized powder was carried out to assess whether microstructural changed were likely to occur at the extrusion temperature. A microstructure made primarily of nanometre-sized icosahedral particles in an FCC-Al matrix was observed through a combination of SEM, TEM (and CBDP), EDX, XRD. Thermal analysis of the powders performed by DSC showed that no change was expected to occur at the extrusion temperature. Five bars were extruded during the course of this project: one bar of pure Al-Fe-Cr-Ti alloy, two composite bars with 10 vol% added pure Al and two bars with 20 vol% added Al. Three more bars were received from a previous project and analysed. Warm extrusion caused the powder particles to become well bonded and elongated in the extrusion direction introducing a preferred orientation in the FCC-Al grains. A bimodal distribution of grain size was observed after extrusion. Several low angle (5-15 °) grain boundaries were also identified by EBSD along the extrusion direction. No obvious change in size or shape was observed by TEM in the icosahedral phase (a bimodal distribution of hard, incoherent precipitates was observed after extrusion), or any change in the amount of solutes in solid solution in the Al matrix. Mechanical properties at room temperature were tested by Vickers microhardness, quasi-static tensile tests, dynamic tensile tests and dynamic compression tests. A theoretical model correlating the microstructures observed with the various active strengthening mechanisms was applied in order to predict an estimate of the yield strength of the material produced. It was found that the strength of the Al93Fe3Cr2Ti2 alloy came primarily from a combination of the effect of the hard, incoherent nanoparticles, the small grain size and work hardening. The fibre addition to this alloy caused a linear decrease in mechanical strength with increasing vol% pure Al. This work represents the first quantitative estimate of which strengthening mechanisms are active and how much they influence the mechanical strength of Al93Fe3Cr2Ti2 alloy and composites. An understanding of the yield strength is essential as engineering components would only be safe to use within the elastic region. To investigate the thermal stability of the alloy and composites, thermal analyses involving DSC and long heat treatments (up to a maximum of 1000 hours) were performed at various temperatures along with microstructural characterisation by XRD, SEM and TEM and microhardness tests. No microstructural change was detected, however a 2-5% decrease in microhardness was observed. Compression tests were performed across a range of temperatures and strain rates to simulate the behaviour of these composites under typical conditions necessary to process them into useful engineering components. Phase changes occurring during plastic deformation at high temperature were investigated by XRD. The measured yield strength at 350 °C was over 3x that of high strength 7075 T6 Al alloy showing outstanding thermal stability and mechanical performance. However, the microstructure was shown by XRD to undergo a phase transformation which resulted in the decomposition of the icosahedral phase at 500 °C into more stable intermetallic phases. Serrated flow was also observed in some of the tests. The high temperature compressive data was then used for the first time in a semi-quantitative analysis to determine which species in solid solution (Fe, Cr or Ti) was likely to cause the serrations. A dynamic strain ageing model, which calculates the diffusion coefficients at the minimum in ductility and strain rate sensitivity, suggested that the Ti in solid solution in the matrix could be the most likely candidate.
Supervisor: Galano, Marina; Audebert, Fernando; Smith, George Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Physical metallurgy ; Materials Sciences ; Processing of advanced materials ; Quasicrystals ; Composite materials ; Mechanical Properties