Characterization and structure of precipitates in 6xxx Aluminium Alloys
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Physics, Conference Series. 2012, 371 . 10.1088/1742-6596/371/1/012082
Solute atom nanoscale precipitates are responsible for the favourable mechanical properties of heat treatable aluminium alloys such as Al-Mg-Si (6xxx). The shape, structure and strengthening properties of age-hardening precipitates depend on alloy composition and thermo-mechanical history. We seek an improved understanding of the physics related to nucleation and precipitation on the atomistic level in these alloys. Once these mechanisms are sufficiently well described and understood, the hope is that 'alloy design' simulations can assist tailoring of materials with desired properties. In pure Al-Mg-Si we have determined the structure of nearly all the known metastable precipitate phases, by combining advanced TEM techniques (such as high resolution TEM and nano-beam diffraction) with atom probe tomography and density functional theory. We are now studying effects of additions /substitutions of Cu, Ag and/or Ge that promote formation of more disordered precipitates, employing aberration corrected high angle annular dark field scanning TEM. We find that all metastable precipitates contain variations of a widely spaced 'Si/Ge network'. In spite of disorder or defects, this network is surprisingly well ordered, with hexagonal projected sub-cell dimensions a = b ≈ 0.4 nm and c (along the fully coherent precipitate main growth direction) equal to 0.405 nm or a multiple of it.