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j o u r n a l o f m a t e r i a l s p r o c e s s i n g t e c h n o l o g y 2 0 8 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 330335

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jmatprotec

Effect of ultrasonic treatment on microstructures


of hypereutectic AlSi alloy
H.K. Feng a , S.R. Yu a, , Y.L. Li b , L.Y. Gong b
a

Key Laboratory of Automobile Materials (Jilin University), Ministry of Education, and College of Materials Science and Engineering,
Jilin University, No. 5988 Renmin Street, Changchun 130025, PR China
b School of Materials and Metallurgy, Northeastern University, Shenyang 110004, PR China

a r t i c l e

i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:

The hypereutectic Al23%Si alloy was treated with ultrasonic wave. A novel horn crucible

Received 17 July 2007

was designed specially for this experiment. The horn crucible was a part of ultrasonic

Received in revised form

horn, and the molten alloy was treated direct in this crucible. The morphology, size, and

26 October 2007

distribution of the microstructures of the AlSi alloy were observed by means of an opti-

Accepted 20 December 2007

cal microscope. The results show that after the hypereutectic Al23%Si alloy was treated
by ultrasonic wave, the hydrogen bubbles in the alloy melt were removed, the primary Si
phase was rened, the morphology of the primary -Al dendritic crystal was changed to

Keywords:

equiaxial crystal, and the eutectic lamellar spacing increased. The mechanisms of ultrasonic

Hypereutectic AlSi alloy

treatment improving the microstructures of the hypereutectic AlSi alloy were discussed.

Ultrasonic treatment

2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Microstructure

1.

Introduction

AlSi alloys are widely used in the automotive, aerospace, and


military industries because of their excellent castability, weldability, thermal conductivity and corrosion resistance (Haque
and Maleque, 1998; Criado et al., 1997; Tomida et al., 2003;
Abu-Dheir et al., 2005; Liao et al., 2002; Wang et al., 2003).
Hypereutectic AlSi cast alloys are especially suitable to use for
tribological parts owing to their excellent wear resistance provided by the primary Si phase. However, the machinability and
ductility of hypereutectic AlSi alloys are low. The mechanical
property of AlSi alloys depends mainly on the size, shape
and distribution of Si phases. AlSi alloys exhibit excellent
mechanical property as long as Si phases, either the eutectic
Si phase or the primary Si phase, are ne and distribute uniformly in matrix (Abu-Dheir et al., 2005; Liao et al., 2002). So
it is effective to change the morphology and size of Si phases
in order to decrease the bad effect of Si phases on matrix and

Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 431 85095862; fax: +86 431 85095876.
E-mail address: yusr@jlu.edu.cn (S.R. Yu).
0924-0136/$ see front matter 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2007.12.121

improve the property of AlSi alloys (Tomida et al., 2003). Several practical techniques, such as rapid solidication of the
melt, adding nucleating agent and rheocasting, are currently
used to form the ne microstructure (Haque and Maleque,
1998; Criado et al., 1997; Tomida et al., 2003; Abu-Dheir et
al., 2005; Liao et al., 2002; Wang et al., 2003). In recent years,
mechanical modication, including electromagnetic mixing
and mechanical vibration to induce forced convection in the
melt, has been successfully developed and applied to rene
grains in the industry (Wang et al., 2003), and other new techniques for rening grains are also being developed. Ultrasonic
treatment, as a new method for improving the solidication
structure and mechanical property of alloys, is obtaining more
and more attention. The injection of ultrasonic energy into
molten alloys can bring about some nonlinear effects, such
as cavitation, acoustic stream, emulsication, and radiation
pressure, which can be used to rene microstructure, reduce
segregation and degas (Jian et al., 2005; Eskin, 2001). However,

j o u r n a l o f m a t e r i a l s p r o c e s s i n g t e c h n o l o g y 2 0 8 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 330335

Table 1 Composition of the AlSi alloy (wt.%)


Si
Mn
Cu
Ti
Fe
Zn
Mg
Al

23
0.01
0.08
0.02
0.5
0.005
0.101
Balance

the mechanisms about the effect of ultrasonic treatment on


alloy melt, until now, are not yet clear, so it is necessary to
carry out more researches on this subject.
In this work, a novel ultrasonic treatment equipment was
developed, and the inuence of the ultrasonic treatment on
the microstructures of hypereutectic Al23%Si alloy using
this equipment was investigated, and the mechanisms of
ultrasonic treatment for improving the microstructures were
discussed.

2.

Experimental

2.1.

Material and equipment

end. So, the special horn was named horn crucible (Fig. 1).
The length and cross-section area of the horn crucible were
determined according to the theory that the stress passes
continuously through the length of the horn (Lal and White,
1996; Lin, 2005). The horn crucible was vertically bolted with
a 20 kHz transducer, and the diameter of the horn crucible
was smaller than that of the transducer. During the course
of the ultrasonic treatment of a metal melt, the ultrasonic
wave emitted from the transducer and passed through the
acoustic horn (horn crucible) is propagated direct into the
melt. The alloy melt becomes a part of acoustic horn, so
the action of energy on the melt is raised remarkably. In
contrast with ordinary ultrasonic treatment, because the
novel horn crucible was invented and applied, no radiator was inserted into the melt, and the impurity from the
radiator was avoided. The microstructures of alloys treated
by this new ultrasonic treatment system were more uniform, and the segregation of the chemical composition was
avoided.
The temperature of the ultrasonic treatment of the metal
melt was monitored with a temperature sensor.

2.2.

Commercial hypereutectic Al23%Si alloy ingot was used as


the raw material. Its chemical composition was listed in
Table 1. AlSi alloy was melted using an intelligently numerical
controlled electric resistance furnace.
The ultrasonic treatment equipment used in this experiment consists of the temperature and power control systems.
The schematic diagram of this apparatus is shown in Fig. 1.
Horn is an important part in ultrasonic treatment equipment.
The ordinary horn includes four styles, i.e., the stepped horn,
the linear horn, the exponential horn, and the catenoidal
horn (Lal and White, 1996). In this work, a special horn
was designed and fabricated, and there was a crucible at its

Fig. 1 Schematic diagram of ultrasonic treatment


equipment.

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Experimental procedures

Al23%Si alloy melt of 200 g was heated to 800 C and then held
at this temperature for 30 min. The melt was stirred slightly
and poured into a preheated horn crucible (680 C), and then it
was treated with ultrasonic wave for 10 min at the temperature
of 680700 C. The ultrasonic power was 50 W, and the amplitude was 4 m. After that, the horn crucible was moved out the
temperature control system and was immediately quenched
into water of 25 C.
The microstructures of the samples were investigated
using Olympus GX51 optical microscope. The sizes of various
phases were measured statistically by means of the quantitative metallography analysis method.

3.

Results and discussion

3.1.

Effect of ultrasonic treatment on degassing

Porosity is one of the major defects in aluminum alloy castings. The presence of porosity can be detrimental to the
mechanical properties and corrosion resistance of the castings. So the degassing of aluminum alloy is very important.
The microstructures of as-cast Al23%Si alloy without and
with ultrasonic treatment were shown in Fig. 2. It can be found
that some gas holes existed in the specimen not treated by
ultrasonic wave (Fig. 2(a)). This indicates that the gas bubbles could not oated out the AlSi alloy melt in the course
of cooling and solidication under the condition of normal
gravity casting. However, the gas holes were not found in
the specimen treated with ultrasonic wave (Fig. 2(b)), i.e., the
ultrasonic wave has the function of degassing. This result
is in accordance with Eskin (2001). The mechanism of ultrasonic degassing is closely related to the cavitation in the melt.
An ultrasonic wave propagating through a melt can generate alternate regions of the compression and rarefaction. In
the rarefaction region of the melt, a large number of small

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j o u r n a l o f m a t e r i a l s p r o c e s s i n g t e c h n o l o g y 2 0 8 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 330335

Fig. 2 Microstructures of as-cast Al23%Si alloy: (a) not


treated by ultrasonic wave and (b) treated by ultrasonic
wave.

Fig. 3 Microstructures of as-cast Al23%Si alloy: (a) the


primary Si phase not treated with ultrasonic wave and (b)
the primary Si phase treated with ultrasonic wave.

cavities are created. Therefore, the hydrogen diffused toward


these cavities, and the hydrogen bubbles were formed, coagulated and oated, which resulted in the degassing of the
melt.

ment, the large and irregular primary Si phase disappeared,


and the size of the primary Si phase decreased obviously and
was about 180 m. The morphology of six petal ower was
unconspicuous, and just slightly aggregative primary Si phase
could be found. The morphology of most primary Si phase was
coarse and blocky rod, and the edges of the primary Si phase
became smooth (Fig. 3(b)).
The reasons producing the modication of the primary
Si phase mentioned above include several aspects. Firstly,
the compression and relaxation of high frequency ultrasonic
wave have effect on the melt, so the edge of the primary Si
phase in the melt would be scoured and form a circle surface.
Secondly, the transient cavitation could produce an impact
strong enough to break up the clustered ne particles and disperse them more uniformly in the melt. Thirdly, the strong
impact coupled with locally high temperatures in a very short
time could also remelt the primary Si phase, so their edges
were the circle (Yang et al., 2004). In addition, acoustic cavitation accelerated the heat and mass transfer processes such
as diffusion, dispersion, emulsication, etc. (Abramov et al.,
1996).

3.2.
Effect of ultrasonic treatment on the morphology
of the primary Si phase
The distribution of the primary Si phase in the hypereutectic
AlSi alloy not treated by ultrasonic wave was homogeneous,
and no aggregation was found over the section of the samples
(Fig. 2(a)). The shapes of the primary Si phase included mostly
coarse ower crystal, polygon or blocky crystal, and ne crystal, and the ower crystal was commonly composed of the club
crystal with 56 petals. The edges and corners of the primary
Si phase were clear (Fig. 3(a)). The largest size of the primary
Si phase was up to 500 m.
After the hypereutectic AlSi alloy was treated by the
ultrasonic wave, most of the primary Si phase distributed
homogeneously in the section of the specimen (Fig. 2(b)). As
compared with the microstructures without ultrasonic treat-

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333

3.3.
Effect of ultrasonic treatment on the morphology
of -Al
Under the condition of non-equilibrium solidication, the primary -Al phase can also produce in hypereutectic AlSi alloy
(Tomida et al., 2003). Fig. 4 shows the morphology of the primary -Al phase in as-cast Al23%Si alloy. It can be seen that
the primary -Al phase, not treated by ultrasonic wave, was
developed obviously into dendritic crystal and the length of
its primary arm was even up to 120 m (Fig. 4(a)). After the
alloy was treated by ultrasonic wave, the morphology of the
primary -Al dendritic crystal was changed to equiaxial crystal (Fig. 4(b)), and the size of the primary -Al phase reduced
obviously from 120 m to about 40 m.
The modication of the primary -Al phase resulted mainly
from the action of the cavitation and acoustic stream of ultrasonic wave. The transient caviation produced strong impact
and broke up the primary -Al dendritic crystal, and then
acoustic stream dispersed uniformly them to the melt. So the
growth of the primary -Al dendritic crystal was restrained
and resulted in the formation of the primary -Al equiaxial
crystal.

Fig. 5 Microstructures of as-cast Al23%Si alloy: (a) the


growing correlation of the primary Si and -Al phases not
treated with ultrasonic wave and (b) the growing correlation
of the primary Si and -Al phases treated with ultrasonic
wave.

3.4.
Effect of ultrasonic treatment on the relation
between the primary Si and -Al phases

Fig. 4 Microstructures of as-cast Al23%Si alloy: (a) the


primary -Al not treated with ultrasonic wave and (b) the
primary -Al treated with ultrasonic wave.

The precipitation of the primary Si phase in hypereutectic


AlSi alloy resulted in the lack of Si element in matrix around
the primary Si phase, and promoted the formation of the primary -Al phases around the primary Si phase. The growth
direction of the primary arm of -Al dendritic crystal was along
the sharp tips of the primary Si when the hypereutectic AlSi
alloy was not treated by ultrasonic wave (Fig. 5(a)).
After the hypereutectic AlSi alloy was treated by ultrasonic wave, the growth orientation of the primary arm of -Al
dendritic crystal along the tips of the primary Si phase was
weakened (Fig. 5(b)). The main reason was that the cavitation and acoustic stream of ultrasonic wave promoted the
dispersion of elements around the primary Si phase, and the
distribution of elements around the primary Si phase was
more homogeneous. On the other hand, the tips of the primary Si phase became obtuse under the action of ultrasonic
wave, and the original growth direction of the primary arm of
-Al dendritic crystal was changed.

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Fig. 6 Microstructures of as-cast Al23%Si alloy: (a)


eutectic structure not treated with ultrasonic wave and (b)
eutectic structure treated with ultrasonic wave.
Fig. 7 Schematic diagram of AlSi eutectic phase growth
without (a) and with (b) ultrasonic treatment.

3.5.

Effect of ultrasonic treatment on eutectic structure

The shape of the eutectic Si in the hypereutectic AlSi


alloy without ultrasonic treatment was aky (Fig. 6(a)).
The lamellar spacing of the eutectic structure is about
2.2 m. After being treated by ultrasonic wave, the eutectic lamellar spacing increased (Fig. 6(b)), and it was about
2.8 m.
During eutectic solidication, if the melt cannot be mixed
uniformly, the solute will enrich in front of the solidliquid
interface, the growths of the eutectic phases will be restrained,
and the concave surfaces will be formed gradually on the
ends of the eutectic phases, i.e., the curvature radius of the
solidliquid interface become negative (Fig. 7(a)). The concave surface will become more and more deep until another
phase of the eutectic forms in the concave position. Therefore,
the eutectic lamellar spacing decreases. When the melt was
treated with ultrasonic wave, the alternate regions of the compression and rarefaction were continuously generated in the
melt under the action of ultrasonic cavitation, so the uniform
mix of the melt in front of the solidliquid interface increased
largely. The Al and Si elements in front of the solidliquid inter-

face could be sufciently dispersed. Therefore, the enrichment


of the solute in front of the solidliquid interface was reduced
or avoided. The negative curvature radius of the solidliquid
interface could not be formed (Fig. 7(b)), and the eutectic
phases grew ahead. As a result, the new eutectic lamels could
not be formed, and the eutectic lamellar spacing did not
reduce but increased.

4.

Conclusion

After the hypereutectic Al23%Si alloy was treated by ultrasonic wave, the hydrogen bubbles in the alloy melt were
removed, the primary Si phase was rened, the morphology of the primary -Al dendritic crystal was changed to
equiaxial crystal, the primary arm size of the primary -Al
phase reduced obviously, and the eutectic lamellar spacing
increased.

j o u r n a l o f m a t e r i a l s p r o c e s s i n g t e c h n o l o g y 2 0 8 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 330335

Acknowledgements
This work was supported by The Specialized Scientic
Research Foundation for Doctor Subject in Colleges and Universities by the Ministry of Education of China (Grant no.
20030183019), Program for New Century Excellent Talents in
University, and 985 project of Jilin University of China.

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