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Metal Science and Heat Treatment, Vol. 55, Nos. 9 10, January, 2014 (Russian Original Nos.

. 9 10, September October, 2013)

UDC 620.184.6:669.715

USE OF FRACTOGRAPHY FOR ESTIMATING FRACTURE RESISTANCE


OF ALUMINUM ALLOYS
I. P. Zhegina1 and L. V. Morozova1
Translated from Metallovedenie i Termicheskaya Obrabotka Metallov, No. 9, pp. 18 22, September, 2013.

Fracture surfaces of aluminum alloys VAD23, AK6, V95, 01911, 1420, 1430, 1440, 1451 are studied after different variants of aging. Common features of formation of fractures are determined depending on the modes of
heat treatment, conditions of deformation and presence of impurities in the aluminum alloys. Efficiency of the
use of fractography for estimating the working capacity of the aluminum alloys is demonstrated.

Key words: fractography, fracture, failure, cracks, aluminum alloys, lithium.

of various structural and production process factors on the


structure of fractures and allowed the researchers to work out
approaches for analyzing operating fractures and estimating
the reliability of the developed materials and constructions.
I. N. Fridlyander has created a theory of three stages of
aging of aluminum alloys, i.e., zonal, phase, and coagulation
ones, which yield different combinations of properties [3].
This scale of aging modes has been used to study aluminum
alloys including grade VAD23 of the Al Li Cu system.
The aim of the present work was to determine the features of fracture typical for various aging modes and their relation to the structure of aluminum alloys in order to employ
the results in the creation of new materials, advancement of
technologies and analysis of emergency fractures.

INTRODUCTION
Aluminum alloys remain the most frequently used structural materials possessing the properties required for the aircraft industry [1, 2].
In the 1950s 1960s VIAM specialists started intense research of the structural strength and reliability of materials in
operation. It became clear that in addition to the results of
mechanical tests of notched and unnotched test pieces other
fracture characteristics should be allowed for in such estimates.
Analysis of the structure of a fracture is an effective
means for studying the behavior of the material in the fracture process depending on the loading conditions and on the
condition of the material. Growth of a crack and formation of
a fracture surface is a local process accompanied by marked
localization of strain. Studying a fracture surface we obtain
data on the capacity of the material for local plastic straining
and on the kinetics of crack growth, which is especially important for analyzing operating fractures and comparing the
capacities of various materials for resisting fracture. This scientific direction has been developed for aluminum alloys under the guidance of Ya. B. Fridlyander, T. A. Gordeeva and
with active support of I. N. Fridlyander.
The capacity of a material to resist fracture is a structure-sensitive property. It depends much on the chemical and
phase composition of the material, the presence of impurities, and the modes of heat treatment and deformation.
All the works aimed at creation of novel alloys in the
laboratory headed by I. N. Fridlyander were performed with
the use of fractography, which gave ample data on the effect
1

METHODS OF STUDY
We studied the fracture behavior of aluminum alloys
VAD23, AK6, V95, 01911, 1420, 1430, and 1440 as a function of their heat treatment, content of impurities, presence of
stress concentrators, and conditions of deformation.
The fracture surfaces of the test pieces were studied under a JEOL JSM-840 scanning electron microscope. We determined the mechanical properties (short-term tensile
strength and impact toughness KCT of test pieces with a fatigue crack) of the alloys using an MTS testing machine and
a Walter bai PH300-CHC impact machine.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The same test pieces of alloy VAD23 were used to analyze the microstructure and the structure of fractures in order

FGUP VIAM, Moscow, Russia (e-mail: morozovalv@viam.ru).

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0026-0673/14/0910-0472 2014 Springer Science + Business Media New York

Use of Fractography for Estimating Fracture Resistance of Aluminum Alloys

Fig. 1. Microfractograms of alloy


VAD-23 after aging by various modes:
a) 125C, 3 h (zonal aging, 7000);
b ) 60C, 1 h (incomplete decomposition of solid solution, 7000);
c) 140C, 100 h (aging for maximum
strength, 5500); d ) 200C, 24 h (coagulation aging, 7000).

to find the correspondence between this or that surface texture and structural state.
After zonal aging (at 125 140C for up to 6 h) which is
accompanied by growth of the formed Guinier Preston
zones and occurs virtually without decomposition of the
solid solution, the alloy exhibits high local ductility. After
testing for short-term tensile strength the fracture has a dominantly large-dimple texture (see Fig. 1a).
In the initial stage of phase aging (125 140C for 24 h,
160C for up to 6 h, 200C for up to 2 h) the fracture has a
mixed pattern of large and small dimples (Fig. 1b), which indicates lowering of the capacity of the matrix for local plastic
straining due to the formation of small dimples on the particles of the hardening phase. The fuller the decomposition of
the solid solution, the smaller the size of the dimples and the
lower the local plastic strain upon fracture.
After the aging of alloy VAD23 for maximum strength
(125 140C for up to 100 h, 160C for up to 12 h, 200C
for up to 6 h, 220C for up to 2 h) about 50% of the fracture
surface is taken by a zone of brittle detachment facets formed
on subgrain boundaries. The rest of the area is taken by small
dimples that are less ductile than in the case of incomplete
phase aging (Fig. 1c).
In the stage of coagulation aging the local ductility upon
fracture is somewhat elevated. The proportion of facets of
brittle detachment over the lamellar phase in the fracture of
alloy VAD23 decreases and the content of large dimples increases (after the aging at 200C and especially at 220C for
24 h) (Fig. 1d ) [4].
Alloys AK6, V95 and 01911 have been studied in [5] for
determining microfractographic features of early aging
stages. All the alloys exhibited similar variation of local ductility upon fracture. However, alloys V95 and 01911 did not

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undergo subgrain fracture. The ductility decreased due to the


growth in the proportion of small dimples on the fracture
surface.
Further studies of the microstructure of fractures of aluminum alloys showed that their local ductility upon fracture
was influenced considerably by impurities. The effect of iron
impurities on the fracture behavior of alloy V95 has been
studied in detail. It turned out that the purity of the material
with respect to iron and silicon affects positively the mechanical properties of this alloy [6]. This was ascribed to the decrease in the content of the excess insoluble Al6FeNi or Al
Fe Mn Si phases. However, according to the results of
studies of fracture surfaces, iron and silicon present in the
majority of aluminum alloys in the form of alloying additives
or impurities can be bonded chemically to the other elements
of the alloy forming intermetallic phases, enter the composition of the solid solution thus causing an additional hardening or softening, shift the solubility of the elements in the
solid solution, affect the recrystallization process, and so on.
At a low content of iron and silicon (0.26 0.14% Fe,
0.09 0.06% Si as compared to 0.4% Fe and 0.32% Si) local
ductility is increased considerably and the texture formed
upon fracture is characterized as a more ductile small-dimple
one. Thus, local ductility upon fracture of alloy V95 with
elevated purity grows not only due to the absence of a brittle
excess phase but also due to the elevated ductility of the solid
solution. This may be connected with the effect of iron and
silicon on the process of decomposition of the solid solution.
It should be noted that in the test pieces where fracture
developed over the height, particles of excess phases, which
serve stress concentrators, were accumulated. Therefore, the
advantage of the higher capacity of the matrix for local plastic straining upon decrease in the content of impurities is not

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I. P. Zhegina and L. V. Morozova

so obvious in this case as in the test pieces cut in other directions.


As a rule, high-strength alloys are highly sensitive to
stress concentrators and when they are used for designing
construction components, the places of stress concentration
of design (transition radii, combinations of components with
different thickness, etc.) and process (cuts, hairlines, nicks,
etc.) origins require special control. The effect of stress concentrators on the structural strength of a material with a high
content of impurities (0.4% Fe, 0.32% Si) may be illustrated
by the following example. In a static test of an aircraft wing
jacketed with a pressed panel from alloy V95 early failure
has occurred at a load of 80% of the design value. The fracture started not in the zone of the highest design stresses near
an opening but at the place of intersection of a stringer with a
rib, where transition radius was virtually absent and traces of
rough conditioning with deep grooves were observable.
The fracture surfaces of the KCT test pieces cut from the
wing panel in question had a mixed pattern, bore small and
large dimples without traces of shear strain, which indicated
a low local ductility of the solid solution upon fracture. On
the contrary, fracture in a panel from alloy V95pch (with elevated purity) developed with considerable local ductility,
which reflected a higher capacity of the latter to resist fracture (see Fig. 2).
Thus, the early failure of the panel was a result of a combination of factors, namely, rough treatment of the surface
and use of material with reduced resistance to stress concentration. The results of the study have been used to redesign
the wing and to pass to making it form alloy V95pch with
higher purity.
Fracture characteristics are influenced much by the conditions of deformation in the production of the semiproduct,

Fig. 2. Microfractograms of aluminum


alloy V95 (a, b ) and V95pch (c, d ):
a) large dimples; b ) cellular texture;
c) large dimples with traces of plastic
shear; d ) small dimples, a, b ) 7000;
c, d ) 3000.

especially for the alloys with lithium additives. The local


ductility upon fracture estimated from the appearance of the
fracture surface characterizes the capacity to decelerate fracture, which determines the reliability of operation of the alloy.
An analysis of the fracture behavior of lithium-alloyed
aluminum alloys starting with 1420 has shown that their
fracture surfaces are considerably inhomogeneous, which depends on the microstructure. This explains the elevated susceptibility of the alloys with lithium to layering. Layering
connected with fracture over grain boundaries or fiber interfaces was observed in [7] when deformation modes were
worked out for bars from alloy 1420. Fine segregations of a
hardening phase were detected on the surface of the boundaries. This allows us to expect lithium (and magnesium) diffusion to the places of stress concentration, for example, between layers of flow of the metal, during deformation of alloys containing such diffusion-mobile elements as lithium
and magnesium (Al Li Mg) or lithium (Al Li Cu).
This causes considerable local supersaturation and more intense decomposition of the solid solution in local zones [8, 9].
An analysis of fractures of alloys of the Al Li Mg and
Al Li Cu systems after testing for impact bending has
shown that the region where layering occurs has a low-ductility cellular texture, wheres between the regions of layering
the fracture is ductile and large-dimple (Fig. 3).
Thus, inhomogeneity of the microstructure yields a metal
with strength and ductility varying over cross section. Fractures of the Al Li Mg alloys are more homogeneous than
those of the Al Li Cu alloys, because in the former case
the only diffusion-mobile element is lithium.
The susceptibility of aluminum alloys to layering depends considerably on the conditions of their heat treatment.
For example, transverse test pieces of a plate from alloy 1440

Use of Fractography for Estimating Fracture Resistance of Aluminum Alloys

c
Fig. 3. Fracture of alloy 1420 after testing for impact bending:
a) layering; b, c) regions close to and between layered zones, respectively; a) 200; b ) 3000; c) 1500.

after aging at 100C for 3 h exhibit a homogeneous dimple


fracture; layering and zones of brittle cellular texture near
them appear already after 5-h aging at 120C. When the aging temperature or the time of the hold is increased, these
zones become more developed and brittle. The fracture pattern of plates from alloy 1451 is influenced much by the temperature of their heating for quenching. After water quenching from 480C and 20-h aging at 150C the fracture has a
small-dimple structure and exhibits clusters of primary
phases (KCT = 0.11 MJ/m2 ). When the temperature is raised
to 570C, the proportion of particles of the primary phase decreases and the dimples become larger, which indicates a
higher capacity of the matrix for local plastic straining
(KCT = 0.19 MJ/m2 ). The process parameters and the
method of deformation of the alloy are very important. For
example, the use of lateral-longitudinal forging instead of the
conventional forging scheme with double upsetting for making plates from alloy 1430 has improved the properties of the
plates over the height due to refinement of lengthy zones
with fragmented texture. For example, the time of the hold
under a single load equal to 0.9s has increased from 744 to

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4500 h, i.e., the operating capacity of the alloy has grown


considerably [9].
The embrittlement of the alloy near the zones of layering
is affected much by the rate of the loading. For example, in
test pieces fabricated from a plate from alloy 1440 after 12-h
aging at 150C and testing for impact bending (KCT =
0.13 MJ/m2 ) the zone near the layering has a cellular texture, whereas after testing for three-point bending the texture
contained brittle facets (KCT = 0.05 MJ/m2 ). After testing
the alloy at a low temperature, brittle facets can appear in
zones adjoining the layering.
A great role in fatigue fracture belongs to the state of the
material near fiber boundaries. In ordinary aluminum alloys
fatigue fracture develops through formation of microcracks
from the boundaries of grains or particles of primary phases,
whereas in the alloys with lithium it develops from fiber
boundaries. Moreover, in the former case the direction of
propagation of microcracks coincides with that of the trunk
crack or deviates from it by a low angle, whereas in the latter
case microcracks often propagate normally to the trunk
crack. In other words, the first to form in the alloys with lithium is a tear over fiber boundaries and the fatigue crack propagates over the body of grains. Thus, the presence of zones
with reduced ductility near fiber boundaries in deformation
of a semiproduct accelerates the development of the fatigue
crack.
The heterogeneity of microstructure detectable by fractographic analysis in aluminum alloys with lithium affects negatively their endurance in a corrosive environment. A
streaky intergrain fracture develops in this case in regions adjoining fiber boundaries, which gives rise to development of
fatigue cracks [10].
Studies of fracture surfaces have contributed much into
the development of the process of welding of aluminum alloys with lithium. The results of these studies were used to
create atlases of fractures that reflect the effect of surface
treatment before welding, to choose appropriate fillers and
kinds of welding, and to show the role of the quality of the
welded material [11 17].
Thus, fractography is an effective means for creating
new aluminum alloys, developing production processes,
choosing materials for specific operating conditions, and analyzing operational failures.
CONCLUSIONS
1. Characteristic fractographic features have been determined for aluminum alloys VAD23, AK6, V95, 01911, 1420,
1430, 1440, and 1451 after aging at various temperatures and
tensile and impact testing.
2. Alloy VSD23 after zonal aging has the most ductile
condition, while phase and coagulation aging causes the appearance of brittle detachment facets in the fractures.
3. Alloy V95 is sensitive to stress concentrators and to
the quality of mechanical treatment. The mechanical proper-

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ties of the alloy improve when its purity with respect to iron
and silicon is raised; then the sensitivity to stress concentrators decreases.
4. Deformation conditions affect aluminum alloys with
lithium. The use of lateral-longitudinal forging in the production of plates from alloy 1430 has improved its properties
over the height due to refinement of extended zones with
fragmented texture.
5. Embrittlement of Al Li Mg alloys in the zone adjoining layered structure is influenced considerably by the
loading rate. The higher this rate the more probable is the appearance of brittle facets on the fracture surface.
6. The determined dependences of the structure of fracture surfaces on the modes of heat treatment and deformation
and on the presence of impurities have been used for designing new aluminum alloys and emergency research.
7. Studies of fracture surfaces have shown that the operating capacity of aluminum alloys can be improved with the
help of factors improving the homogeneity of their structure
in forming and in subsequent heat treatment.
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I. P. Zhegina and L. V. Morozova

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16. Ibid, pp. 762 763.
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