The nucleation sequence of α-Al on TiB2 particles in Al-Cu alloys

Jiehua LI, Fredrik S. Hage, Quentin M. Ramasse, Peter Schumacher

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The refinement of Al alloys by TiB 2 has been extensively investigated for decades, both in industry and academia. In order to achieve higher grain refinement potency, it is known that other solutes must be added alongside TiB 2, thus tailoring the heterogeneous nucleation at the interface between the TiB 2 particles and the Al matrix. Here, we report results from an atomic-scale experimental investigation of the heterogeneous nucleation interface of TiB 2 in Al-Cu based alloys as well as in an Al-5Ti-1B grain refiner employed in these Al-Cu based alloys. We focus on the effect of segregation of the main solute elements (Ti, Cu) to the interface of TiB 2 and attempt to disentangle this effect from other factors affecting the nucleation and growth. Significant Ti segregation in the form of a Ti-rich layer, identified as an Al 3Ti two-dimensional compound, was unambiguously observed on the basal plane of TiB 2 particles in the Al-5Ti-1B grain refiner, in agreement with prior literature. In the Al-Cu alloy system, prevalent Ti segregation was also observed on the basal plane of TiB 2, accompanied in cases when the Cu concentration is high by the presence of a further atomic-scale Cu-rich layer. Based on these observations, a possible nucleation sequence for the Al-Cu based alloys with the addition of Al-5Ti-1B grain refiner is proposed whereby Al nucleation occurs on an Ti-rich layer on the surface of TiB 2, which can then be preserved from a subsequent peritectic transformation by a surrounding eutectic reaction that forms a Cu-rich layer when sufficient Cu is present. This proposed nucleation sequence should help to link the absence or presence of Al 3Ti layers on the basal plane of TiB 2 to processing conditions in post-solidification studies. Although it is difficult to know with absolute certainty if a TiB 2 particle observed in the post-solidification microstructure was active or inactive for heterogeneous nucleation during the solidification process, this experimental study highlights the possible role of Cu segregation on grain refinement of Al-Cu alloys by the Al-5Ti-1B grain refiner.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116652
Number of pages9
JournalActa materialia
Issue numberMarch
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021

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