Characterization of Fe-W alloys electrodeposited from environmentally friendly electrolyte

Abstract: This work focuses on Fe-W and Fe-W/Al2O3 coatings electrodeposited from an environmentally friendly electrolyte: minimally invasive, thermodynamically stable, and without toxic compounds. Such coatings aim to be applied for protective applications and as a sustainable alternative to hard chromium coatings. Therefore, the goal of this thesis is to evaluate the interdependencies between the material characteristics (e.g. composition and structure) and the properties of interest: the mechanical properties as well as wear and corrosion resistance. The structure of the coatings was investigated with various analytical techniques (e.g. XRD, SEM, EBSD, and TEM among others), both in the as-deposited state and after heat treatments. Heat treatments led to microstructural transformations in the Fe-W coatings. Nanohardness and wear measurements were performed to study the influence of such microstructural changes on the mechanical properties and wear resistance of the Fe-W coatings. The results included in this thesis show that increasing the amount of co-deposited W in the coatings results in a transition from a nanocrystalline to a homogeneous amorphous structure, and to an increase in the thermal stability. In-situ TEM analyses on W-rich coatings (i.e. Fe24at.%W) revealed the formation of crystallites at 400 ℃ within the amorphous matrix. Moreover, a large fraction of the amorphous structure is still preserved upon annealing at 600 ℃, where alpha-Fe nanocrystals are found. The microstructural transformations result in an enhancement of mechanical properties of Fe-W coatings. The Fe-24at.%W coating is characterized with the highest hardness both in the as-deposited and annealed state, where a maximum value of 16.5 GPa is observed after annealing at 600 ℃. However, Fe-W coatings are characterized with rather low wear resistance due to severe tribo-oxidation resulting in high coefficient of friction (COF) and wear rates. A considerable improvement in the wear resistance is obtained with the co-deposition of 12vol.% of Al2O3 particles leading to a reduction in the COF and wear rate. The influence of the co-deposited alumina particles on the corrosion resistance is rather limited, i.e. similar values of the corrosion current are measured for the both the Fe-W/Al2O3 composites and Fe-W coatings. Annealing at 600 ℃ of Fe-W/12%Al2O3 composite leads to a combination of high hardness and high wear resistance which result superior to the hardness and wear resistance of hard chromium coatings.