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Short Communication

In situ TiB
2
particulate reinforced near eutectic AlSi alloy composites
Yanfeng Han, Xiangfa Liu
*
, Xiufang Bian
The Key Laboratory of Materials Liquid Structure and Heredity, Ministry of Education, Shandong University, Jinan 250061, People's Republic of China
Received 3 August 2000; revised 11 May 2001; accepted 16 August 2001
Abstract
In situ TiB
2
particulate reinforced near eutectic AlSi alloy composites fabricated by the melt reaction composing (MRC) methods have
been investigated. It has been shown that minute TiB
2
particles (less than 1 mm) uniformly distribute in the eutectic structure and they are
interlaced with the coralline-like eutectic Si, while there are very few TiB
2
particles in a-Al. It has been also shown that in situ TiB
2
particles
can enhance the tensile strength of the AlSi alloy matrix. The strengthening effect increases with increasing TiB
2
content. The ultimate
tensile strength (UTS) at room temperature of as-cast 6%TiB
2
/AlSiMg composite is 296 MPa, that is a 14.7% increase over the matrix,
and its elongation at fracture is 5.5%. After heat-treatment (T6), the UTS of the composites reaches 384 MPa. The strengthening mechanism
has been discussed. q 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.
Keywords: A. Metalmatrix composites (MMCs); B. Mechanical properties; Particle reinforcement
1. Introduction
There is increasing interest in the development of
aluminiummatrix composites containing discontinuous
reinforcements for applications where high specic strength
and modulus as well as good wear resistance are important
aspects [1]. The properties of metalmatrix composites
(MMCs) are controlled by the size and volume fraction of
the reinforcement phase as well as by the microstructure and
properties of the matrixreinforcement interface. Tradition-
ally, MMCs have been produced by such processing
techniques as power metallurgy, pre-form inltration,
spray deposition and various casting technologies, e.g.
squeeze-casting, rheo-casting and compocasting [25]. In
all the above techniques the reinforcement (usually in
particulate form) is combined with the matrix materials
and the reinforcing phase is limited by the starting powder
size, which is typically of the order of microns to 10s of mm
and rarely below 1 mm. Studies of Al-base MMCs have
focused on the SiC/Al system mainly because of the
availability and relatively low cost of SiC bers, whiskers
and particulates [2,6,7]. In spite of the rather high strength
and modulus achieved, these composites have the problem
of SiCAl interaction at elevated temperatures, resulting in
the degradation of the matrixreinforcement interface and
deterioration of the mechanical properties.
During the last decade new in situ fabrication technolo-
gies for processing metal and ceramic composites have been
developed by chemical reaction generating very ne,
thermodynamically stable reinforcing ceramic phases.
Production techniques using a chemical reaction in a melt
are of interest as they are of low cost. The in situ reinforce-
ment of near eutectic AlSi alloys with TiB
2
was investi-
gated in the present paper. Near eutectic AlSi alloys were
selected as the matrix materials because of their good
uidity and the fact that their mechanical properties reach
a peak value near the eutectic composition [8].
2. Experimental procedure
The matrix alloys used in this study are Al12%Si alloy
(named ZL102) and Al11%Si0.5Mg alloy (named
ZL104) which were manufactured in claygraphite crucible
using an intermediate frequency furnace at 8008C. A pre-
weighted mixture of K
2
TiF
6
and KBF
4
was then added into
the molten metal to produce TiB
2
in amounts of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,
6 and 7%, while the melt was stirred for 1520 min before
pouring out the slag. Rening and modifying treatments
were needed by DSG and Al10%Sr master alloy. ultimate
tensile strength (UTS) samples were cast in a permanent
mold. Heat-treatment was performed under T6 conditions
to achieve maximum microstructure distributions and
mechanical properties. Five tensile specimens were tested
Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 439444
1359-835X/02/$ - see front matter q 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.
PII: S1359-835X(01)00124-5
www.elsevier.com/locate/compositesa
* Corresponding author. Tel.: 186-0531-2955081; fax: 186-0531-
2955999.
E-mail addresses: yfhan0693@sina.com (Y. Han), xiu@sdu.edu.cn
(X. Liu).
at each condition and the reported results are average
values. The specimens for microstructural observation and
X-ray diffraction analysis were cut from the tested UTS
samples. The microstructures and fracture surfaces of the
specimens were examined with a high scope optical micro-
scope and an H-800 Scanning Electron Microscope. The
constituent of particles are conrmed with the help of
JXA-8800 Electron Probe.
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Microstructures of the composites
The X-ray diffraction (XRD) pattern of 6%TiB
2
/ZL102
composite is shown in Fig. 1. It can be found that the phases
in the sample include a-Al, b-Si and TiB
2
, while no discern-
ible TiAl
3
diffraction peaks appear. So brittle TiAl
3
phases
can be avoided in the composites by properly controlling the
ratio of Ti/B and the reacting conditions.
The shape, size and spatial distribution of the in situ TiB
2
particles profoundly affect the mechanical properties of the
composites. Fig. 2 presents SEM micrographs of 6%TiB
2
/
ZL102 composite. With the help of electron probe micro-
analysis (EPMA), the white small particles are made up of
Ti and B, as shown in Fig. 3. Fig. 3 is a 30 mm liner analysis
of the sample. Connected with the results of XRD, the
EPMA proves that the white small particles are TiB
2
.
Fig. 2 also shows that the shape of in situ TiB
2
particles is
equaxied and their size is less than 1 mm in diameter. They
uniformly distribute in eutectic structures and are interlaced
with eutectic Si as shown in Fig. 2(a). There are very few
TiB
2
particles in a-Al, as shown in Fig. 2(b) in contrast to
the previous work [912] which reported that the TiB
2
parti-
cles could uniformly distribute in a-Al matrix.
The distribution of TiB
2
particles in the matrix is related
to the solidication process of the alloys. The solidication
process may be described as in Fig. 4. If the density differ-
ence between melt and a particle is over 2 g/cm
3
, the sinking
rate of the particle with 2 mm diameter is 10
24
cm/min and
so a particle with 12 mm in diameter can be thought as
suspending in the melt [13]. The density difference between
the melt and TiB
2
particle is near 2 g/cm
3
. On the other
hand, wetting effect between particle and melt also can
retard the movement of the TiB
2
particle. So when the
TiB
2
particles are formed uniformly in the melt, it can
distribute in the melt for a long time. At the beginning of
Y. Han et al. / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 439444 440
Fig. 1. X-ray diffraction pattern of 6%TiB
2
/ZL102 composites.
Fig. 2. SEM microstructures of 6%TiB
2
/ZL102 composite.
the solidication, the a-Al crystallizes as the primary phase
because of the Sr modication. At the same time, the TiB
2
particles are extracted to the solidifying interface because
the ratio of the coefcient of thermal conductivity between
the particles and a-Al is less than 1 [14]. At this time, the
melt at the solidifying interface is turned into a hyper-
eutectic composition. As a result some primary Si particles
appear in this eld.
TiB
2
particles appear in the eutectic melt and are
uniformly distributed in the solidied structure. The reason
for this is that the eutectic solidifying manner of AlSi alloy
is symbiotic and the solidifying temperature range of the
near-eutectic AlSi alloy is very narrow. Thus, the solidi-
cation is complete in a very short time, leading to a ne
uniform TiB
2
distribution. Fig. 5 shows the inuence of
TiB
2
on the morphology and size of a-Al. The size of the
a-Al largely decreases and its surfaces become coarse with
increasing the number of TiB
2
particles.
The reason resulting in the grain renement of a-Al is
related to the resistance of many TiB
2
particles to the grow-
ing of a-Al during the solidication process. Another reason
is due to some TiB
2
particles acting as a nucleus on which the
aluminium grains solidify. The TiB
2
particles can also
inuence the morphology of eutectic Si. The stereoscopic
morphology of eutectic Si is coralline-like, and there are
Y. Han et al. / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 439444 441
Fig. 3. EPMA pattern of 6% TiB
2
/ZL102 composite.
Fig. 4. The schematic diagrams of solidication.
many thin areas on eutectic Si because of the existence of TiB
2
particles.
The T6 heat-treatment can change the morphology of
eutectic Si phases from coralline-like to particle-like. The
thin areas of the eutectic Si resolve or diffuse into the
matrix, so the eutectic Si is decomposed, which makes
the eutectic Si phases broken into pieces and some of
them dissolve in the matrix and deposit in the whole
structure during the aging stage in the form of round
particles. This provides a method for spheroidizing eutectic
Si phases. The SEM microstructures of 6%TiB
2
/ZL104
composite before and after T6 heat-treatment are shown in
Fig. 6. The fracture surface is composed of dimples, as
shown in Fig. 7 indicating that the composites undergo a
ductile fracture.
3.2. Mechanical properties of the composites
Figs. 8 and 9 show the inuence of the TiB
2
particles on
the mechanical properties of the as-cast composites. The
UTS of the composites at room temperature increase with
the TiB
2
particles. The UTS of 7%TiB
2
/ZL102 is
271.7 MPa, which is 24.9% higher than the strength of the
matrix alloy. The UTS of 6%TiB
2
/ZL104 is as high as
296 MPa, which is 14.7% higher than the matrix alloy.
Even though the UTS of the composites is raised signi-
cantly, the elongation at fracture remains above 5%.
Y. Han et al. / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 439444 442
Fig. 5. The inuence of TiB
2
on the a-Al for ZL104 alloy (2000X): (a) ZL104; (b) 6%TiB
2
/ZL104.
Fig. 6. SEM microstructures of 6%TiB
2
/ZL104 composites: (a) before heat-treatment; (b) after heat-treatment.
One of the reasons for the resulting strengthening is due
to the interaction between dislocations and TiB
2
particles
when the composites bear a load. Another reason is due to
the presence of a number of appending dislocations around
the TiB
2
particles because of the difference of the thermal
expansion coefcient between the matrix and TiB
2
particles.
The strength of the composites is increased signicantly,
while the ductility is also above 5% and belongs to plastic
range. The grain renement and the structure homogeniza-
tion which resulted due to the presence of TiB
2
particles can
offset the decrease of ductility.
Fig. 9 shows that the % elongation increases with TiB
2
content. The reason is that the increase of the elongation due
to the grain rening effect offsets the decrease due to the
forming of TiB
2
particles when the content of TiB
2
particles
is low. But when the matrix is Zl102, the decrease of the
elongation is larger than the increase due to the grain
rening effect. So with increasing content of TiB
2
particles,
the elongation at fracture reduces greatly (Fig. 8)
After heat-treatment (T6), the microstructure of TiB
2
/
ZL104 composites undergo a remarkable change. The
change of the microstructure of composites gives rise to
the improvement of mechanical properties of the compo-
sites. Fig.10 shows the change of mechanical properties of
6%TiB
2
/ZL104 composites after heat-treatment.
The UTS of 6%TiB
2
/ZL104 is raised from 296 to
386 MPa after heat treatment. The extent of this increasing
increases with TiB
2
particles. One reason for this improve-
ment of the UTS values is the change of the morphology of
the eutectic Si after heat-treatment.
4. Conclusions
1. The shape of in situ TiB
2
particles is equaxied, their size
is less than 1 mm, and distribute in AlSi eutectic inter-
laced with eutectic Si. During solidication, the in situ TiB
2
particles are extracted to the solidifying interface and can
change the morphology of phases in the structure.
Y. Han et al. / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 439444 443
Fig. 7. Fracture surface morphology of 6%TiB
2
/ZL104 after heat treatment.
Fig. 8. Inuence of TiB
2
particles on mechanical properties of TiB
2
/ZL102. Fig. 9. Inuence of TiB
2
particles on mechanical properties of TiB
2
/ZL104.
2. The presence of in situ TiB
2
particles increases the tensile
strength of the composites. At the same time, the
composites retain high elongation values.
3. Heat treatment can change the morphology of phases and
transform the eutectic Si from coralline-like to particle-
like and further improve the mechanical properties of the
composites. The tensile strength of 6%TiB
2
/ZL104 after
heat treatment is as high as 386 MPa.
Acknowledgements
The microstructure analysis assistance of Li Shitong is
greatly appreciated. This work was supported by the
National Natural Science Foundation of China (project no.
50171037).
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Y. Han et al. / Composites: Part A 33 (2002) 439444 444
Fig. 10. Effect of heat treatment on the tensile strength of 6%TiB
2
/ZL104
composites.