Eutectic Modification of Al-Si casting alloys
Abstract: Aluminum alloys with silicon as the major alloying element are the most widely used aluminum casting alloys. The eutectic phase in these alloys is formed by hard and brittle silicon plates in an aluminum matrix. Such silicon plates can act as crack propagation paths deteriorating the toughness of the material. To enhance ductility, silicon can be modified to a coral-like microstructure by addition of a modifying agent. Amongst the elements proposed as modifiers, only strontium, sodium and europium induce a plate-tocoral transition, while others such as ytterbium, only refine the silicon plates. The exact mechanism for the remarkable plate-to-coral change, and the reason why certain elements only refine the structure, is still not completely understood.In this investigation, atom probe tomography and transmission electron microscopy were used to analyze and compare the crystal structure and the distribution of solute atoms in silicon at the atomic level. An unmodified alloy and alloys modified by strontium, sodium, europium and ytterbium were studied. Elements inducing silicon plate-to-coral transition were found to contain nanometer sized clusters at the defects in silicon with stoichiometries corresponding to compounds formed at the ternary eutectic reaction of each system. In contrast, the addition of ytterbium, that only refines the silicon plates, is unable to form clusters in silicon. We propose that the formation of ternary compound clusters AlSiNa, Al2Si2Sr and Al2Si2Eu at the silicon / liquid interface during solidification restrict silicon growth. The formation of clusters on silicon facets create growth steps and increase growth direction diversity. The incorporation of clusters in silicon explains the high density of crystallographic defects and the structural modification from plates to corals.The parallel lattice plane-normals 011Si // 0001Al2Si2Eu, 011Si // 6710Al2Si2Eu and 111Si // 6710Al2Si2Eu were found between Al2Si2Eu and silicon, and absent between Al2Si2Yb and silicon. We propose a favorable heterogeneous formation of Al2Si2Eu on silicon. The misfit between 011Si and 0002Al2Si2X interplanar spacings shows a consistent trend with the potency of modification for several elements such as strontium, sodium, europium, calcium, barium, ytterbium and yttrium.
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