||This research is toward developing a castable and heat-treatable precipitation-strengthened aluminum alloy exhibiting coarsening- and creep resistance at temperatures exceeding 400°C. Criteria for selecting alloying elements capable of producing such an alloy are established. Those systems forming Al3M trialuminide compounds with a cubic L12 crystal structure are favored, and based on a review of the existing literature, these are assessed in terms of solid-solubility and diffusivity in α-Al (satisfying the need for slow coarsening kinetics), and castability (which is discussed based on the binary phase diagrams). The first Group 3 element, Sc, and the second Group 4 element, Zr, are shown to be most promising.
These expectations are confirmed by an initial study on the Al-Ti system, which demonstrates that conventionally-solidified alloys are not capable of precipitation strengthening. The Al-Zr system, by contrast, exhibits precipitation of nanometer-scale Al3Zr (L12) producing pronounced precipitation hardening when aged at 375, 400, or 425°C. The Al3Zr precipitates are coarsening resistant and have the metastable L12 structure up to 500°C, a result of very sluggish diffusion of Zr in α-Al. Ternary additions of Ti are also investigated, forming Al3(Zr,Ti) (L12) precipitates with a reduced lattice parameter mismatch with α-Al, potentially improving the coarsening resistance.
The composition of Al3(Zr,Ti) precipitates formed at 375 or 425°C are measured directly using 3-D atom-probe tomography. At these temperatures, the Zr:Ti atomic ratio in the precipitates is about 10 and 5, respectively, indicating that most of the available Ti fails to partition to the Al3(Zr,Ti) phase. This is consistent with prior studies on Al-Sc alloys, where the slower-diffusing ternary solute species make up a small fraction of the Al3Sc-based precipitates. Despite the confirmed presence of Ti, Al3(Zr,Ti) precipitates exhibit no improvement in terms of coarsening resistance compared to binary Al3Zr.
Mechanical properties of the Al-Zr and Al-Zr-Ti alloys are investigated utilizing Vickers microhardness and creep. The alloys deformed by creep at 300−400°C exhibit a dislocation climb-controlled threshold stress, ca. 6−12 MPa. The binary Al-Zr and ternary Al-Zr-Ti alloys behave similarly under ambient- and high temperature loading, consistent with the similar microstructures of the two alloys.