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Materials Science & Engineering A 666 (2016) 245256

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Materials Science & Engineering A


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

Investigation of microstructural and mechanical properties of cell walls


of closed-cell aluminium alloy foams
M.A. Islam a, M.A. Kader a, P.J. Hazell a, A.D. Brown a, M. Saadatfar b, M.Z Quadir c,d,
J.P. Escobedo a,n
a

School of Engineering and Information Technology, UNSW Canberra, ACT 2610, Australia
Department of Applied Mathematics, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia
c
Electron Microscope Unit, Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre (MWAC), The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
d
Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility (MMF), John de Laeter Centre (JdLC), Curtin University, WA 6102, Australia
b

art ic l e i nf o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 3 March 2016
Accepted 15 April 2016
Available online 23 April 2016

This study investigates the inuence of microstructure on the strength properties of individual cell walls
of closed-cell stabilized aluminium foams (SAFs). Optical microscopy (OM), micro-computed X-ray tomography (m-CT), electron backscattering diffraction (EBSD), and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy
(EDS) analyses were conducted to examine the microstructural properties of SAF cell walls. Novel microtensile tests were performed to investigate the strength properties of individual cell walls. Microstructural analysis of the SAF cell walls revealed that the material consists of eutectic Al-Si and dendritic
a-Al with an inhomogeneous distribution of intermetallic particles and micro-pores (void defects). These
microstructural features affected the micro-mechanism fracture behaviour and tensile strength of the
specimens. Laser-based extensometer and digital image correlation (DIC) analyses were employed to
observe the strain elds of individual tensile specimens. The tensile failure mode of these materials has
been evaluated using microstructural analysis of post-mortem specimens, revealing a brittle cleavage
fracture of the cell wall materials. The micro-porosities and intermetallic particles reduced the strength
under tensile loading, limiting the elongation to fracture on average to  3.2% and an average ultimate
tensile strength to  192 MPa. Finally, interactions between crack propagation and obstructing intermetallic compounds during the tensile deformation have been elucidated.
& 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords:
Closed-cell foams
Microstructure
Micro-tensile
Cell wall properties

1. Introduction
Closed-cell aluminium foams are well known for their unique
physical and mechanical properties, including, but not limited to:
ultra-lightweight, high specic strength, high stiffness and extraordinary energy absorption capabilities during compressive loading. These characteristics appeal to numerous applications in
aerospace, civil and defence engineering as well as protective
equipment [14]. It is well known that mechanical performance of
closed-cell foams macroscopically depends on relative density and
geometric features such as cell size and cell wall thickness [57].
Numerous experimental [812] and numerical [1315] investigations into the structural behaviour of metallic foams have been
extensively carried out over the past two decades; primarily focusing on geometric parameters relating the cell structure to
mechanical performance. One the other hand, the effect of
n

Corresponding author.
E-mail address: J.Escobedo-Diaz@adfa.edu.au (J.P. Escobedo).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.msea.2016.04.046
0921-5093/& 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

microstructural features of metallic cellular materials on their


mechanical properties has not been investigated except in a few
recent studies [1619].
The strength of individual foam cells is governed by microstructural features such as grain size, grain boundaries, and precipitation of foaming agents (stabilized particles) in the microstructure [2021]. Closed-cell foams of identical density demonstrated different compressive plateau strengths due to variations
in the alloying composition [21]. Closed-cell foams usually produced in the melt route contain approximately 1030% ceramic
particles by volume, which are added during foaming [22]. These
particles enhance the stability of the foaming process; however,
melting of the base alloy and the addition of ceramic particles
changes the microstructural and mechanical properties of the nal
material [2324]. The role of these stabilized particles on mechanical properties is unclear to date. Moreover, mechanical
property changes such as elastic-plastic transition and ductilebrittle formation during the foaming are a general phenomenon of
cast alloys [24]. Approximately 810% of the SAF alloy is silicon,
which increases the uidity signicantly [24], but at the expense

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of ductility and an increase in brittleness [2527]. Thus, it is expected that the resultant cast material is likely to exhibit different
mechanical behaviours than the base alloy material.
Several studies have aimed to mechanically test individual
struts from open cell foams [19,28,29]. However, the cell size and
shape distribution in closed-cell foams is not homogeneous, which
leads to challenges when fabricating specimens for tensile tests
from the cell walls. To the authors knowledge, comprehensive
studies of individual cell-wall strength properties of closed-cell
metallic foams are currently unavailable in the open literature.
This is important for simulating the behaviour of these materials
under structural loads, quasi-static and dynamic [30]. Hence, it is
of interest to investigate strength properties of individual cell
walls of closed-cell aluminium foams, which are the building
blocks of the entire cellular structure. In depth microstructural
analyses of SAF cell walls and its inuence on foamed materials are
essential since the alloying compositions may alter the crystallography and microstructural features. In this research, systematic
microstructural characterization of cell wall materials is performed using optical microscopy, EBSD and SEM/EDS analysis.
Furthermore, tensile strength and failure behaviour of individual
cell walls have been provided via micro-tensile testing.

2. Materials and methods


2.1. Materials
The SAFs used in this study are manufactured through melting
route and the base material consists of an aluminium alloy [31];
the composition of the base alloy material investigated in this
study is given in Table 1. During processing the bulk alloy is
melted and then stabilized particles consisting of ceramic compounds (Al2O3) are added to the molten materials [31], which is
then poured into a foaming box. Bubbles are created by injecting
gas in a controlled fashion through a rotating impeller. The bubbles then rise through the liquid metal matrix, resulting in a foam
structure. The cell size is controlled by varying the operating
conditions, such as: gas pressure and temperature [32].
In this experiment, CYMAT SAFs with density of 0.17 g/cc
(relative density 6.18%) were investigated. The physical properties
of the SAFs are illustrated in Table 2. During the removal of cell
walls from the foam structure, several visible defects were documented, such as: a) rupturing of cell walls visible from the surface,
b) coagulation of adjacent cell walls and c) non-at wrinkled cell
wall regions. The effects of these morphological inhomogeneities
have only been reported in a few previous studies [33,34]. Cell
walls with pre-existing defects were avoided to study approximately homogenous cell walls. Since the cell shape and size is irregular, only relatively larger cells have been chosen for the ease of
producing quality tensile samples. Further descriptions of the
tensile samples are given in the tensile test Section 3.2.

Table 1
The weight percent composition of the base SAF alloy.
Name

Al

Si

Fe

Cu

Mg

Mn

Ti

Zn

Percentage
(weight)

489 811 01.0 01.00 00.5 0.10.8 00.2 01.0

Table 2
Physical properties of closed-cell aluminium foams.
Density (g/
cc)

Relative Density (%)

Porosity (%)

Cell size (mm) Cell-wall thickness (mm)

0.17 70.1

6.30 7 0.25

93.707 0.50 9.007 1.25

0.10 70.02

oriented to analyze the through thickness and the in-plane surface


of the material. The samples were then mounted in epoxy, mechanically polished with SiC papers, 1 mm diamond suspension,
and nished with colloidal silica in the vibratory polisher for 2.5 h.
2.3. Tensile testing
Micro-scale tensile tests were conducted on cell wall specimens
with an average thickness of 100 mm, 3 mm in width and 4.5 mm
in length. The sample dimensions have been chosen to maximize
the size of the specimens while minimizing geometric inhomogeneity. The samples were prepared (Fig. 1a) using stainless
steel high precision scissors. The samples were then connected
with a mechanical grip buffer layer (1 mm thick Al. sheet of size
30 mm  30 mm) using very high strength metal to metal adhesive (Master Bond MB303). A total of 35 samples were manufactured using this procedure.
The experimental set-up was equivalent to ASTM D4018, for
which the major components of the test set up are: loading actuator, gripper system, strain measuring systems and a load
measuring system. Experiments have been carried out using a
modied Shimadzu tensile testing machine outtted with an additional laser extensometer and a DIC setup (Section 3.3) mounted
for accurate in-situ strain measurement. A small load cell (maximum 350 N) and laser based strain measuring system were used
to measure the load and strain. A pneumatically controlled gripper
system was implemented to provide sufcient gripping pressure
without any slip during the tensile loading, which was performed
with a constant cross-head velocity of 0.1 mm/min (strain rate
 10 4 s 1). The uniaxial tensile test setup is shown as a schematic in Fig. 1(b). Care was taken during the tests due to two aspects; a) the sample can be damaged during mounting due to
comparatively heavier grips attached to the specimen and b)
alignment of the specimen.

3. Experimental observations
2.2. Microstructural examination
3.1. Cell-wall microstructure
Cell wall specimens were sectioned using a high precision
cutting blade to avoid damaging the specimen. The ne cut cellwall parts were embedded in an acrylic resin in both the throughthickness and in-plane orientations. Microstructural observations
of cell-wall materials of the SAFs were carried out using OM, m-CT,
scanning electron microscopy, EDS and EBSD analysis. All metallographic procedures for the sample preparation for the aforementioned analyses have been carried out using a Struers automated polisher for mechanical grinding with silica-carbide paper
through nal polishing steps using colloidal silica suspension in a
vibratory polisher. The samples used for EBSD analysis were

A typical optical micrograph of cell-wall surfaces is given in


Fig. 2. It was found that the microstructure consists of dendritic Al (1525 mm) with a eutectic Al-Si domain approximately 10
20 mm in size. The two primary microstructural features examined
in the cell wall materials are ceramic particles and eutectic silicon
segregated into inter-dendritic regions, which is similar to other
cast Al-Si alloys of similar base compositions [35]. The eutectic
silicon in the form of globular and semi-brous crystal of a modied structure is predominant and the presence of several intermetallic compounds is also documented.

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247

Fig. 1. Experimental overview: (a) example of an exhumed tensile specimen from a cell wall; (b) schematic of experimental setup.

Fig. 2. Microstructure of cell-wall materials of SAFs. The cell wall has been magnied into four subsets: (a) eutectic aluminium particle coverage of 0%, (b) particles dispersed
around a micro-pore and overall particle coverage of  10%, (c)  12% and (d) 15%.

The distribution of particles visible from the cell wall crosssections are shown in Fig. 2. It is observed that the particles
coverage in regions of the cell wall cross-section varied from 0 to

20% (Fig. 2ad), with a global area fraction of 7.50%. The distributions of these intermetallic particles are heterogeneous over the
surface of the cell wall and are predominantly found near the wall

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boundaries and plateau borders, or, cell wall joints. This mosaic
distribution of the particles along the cross-section and surface of
the cell wall can be further organized with size and shape. It is
shown that larger particles were mainly concentrated directly on
cell wall surfaces whereas smaller particles are heavily concentrated around the micro-pores and near the free surface edges.
In addition to dispersive intermetallic compounds, an irregular
distribution of micro-pores and micro-cracks were observed. The
size of the micro-pores varied from 5 mm to 80 mm and microcrack lengths were observed exceeding 80 mm in some locations. It
is proposed that these micro-pores are a result from the microbubbles developing inside the cell wall during isothermal holding
of molten alloy after the gas injection.
It was found that all micro-pores are surrounded by particles
(Fig. 2bd); however, all particles are not accumulated around
micro-pores and are dispersed throughout the cell walls. High
particle densities were observed near the plateau border of the cell
walls compared to central regions of the cell walls. Fig. 2(ad)
show regions containing approximately 0%, 5%, 10% and 20% localized area fraction of particles to metal matrix. In short, the
particles agglomeration on the cell wall of the foam can be random, surface segregation and cluster type. Closed cell metal foams
without particles are not possible since the stabilization of foaming is inherently relying on the particles addition [32]. The role of

these particles on the bulk strength properties has been further


elucidated in Section 4.2.
Porosity defects in the microstructure of cell walls have been
further analyzed using m-CT. Fig. 3 shows m-CT images of a cell wall
surface, the plateau border and a cell wall cross-section. A dispersion of both micro and macro-cracks are observed in m-CT
image. Furthermore, crack in the cell wall also appears which have
the maximum crack length exceeding 100 mm as is in Fig. 3(c). In
comparison to the optical microstructure, a higher porosity fraction was found from the m-CT data. This is to be expected since a
single 2-D slice cannot yield volumetric information about the
porosity and serial sectioning was not performed via mechanical
polishing. The defect fraction of microstructure has been measured
using the open sourced ImageJ software. It has been found that the
void fraction of the porosity encompasses up to 3.20% of total area
of the microstructure of a typical cell-wall surface. However the
area fraction of defect (void) does not provide the overall of void in
a single cell wall specimen. To measure the exact volume fraction,
we developed the x-ray data into 3D reconstructed cell wall using
3D image rendering software Drishti. Fig. 3. also shows the 3D
reconstructed (Fig. 3d) cell wall and void distributions (Fig. 3e) in a
cell wall of SAFs. The reconstructed cell wall reveals that various
shaped and sized bubbles presence in the cell wall. A void distribution in the cell wall has been obtained by eliminating material

Fig. 3. Micro-CT images of a cell wall. Black regions within the cell wall material are from porosity and micro-cracks, while the lighter grey regions represent the ceramic
particles distribution. The orientations shown are: (a) the cell wall surface, (b) plateau border (cell wall joint), (c) cross-section of the cell wall, (d) 3D reconstruction of cell
wall and (e) total void distribution in a cell wall material.

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Fig. 4. Grain map and orientation of cell-wall materials of SAFs.

using above mentioned software. The gas bubbles entrapped in


the cell wall during the foaming process were size from  200 nm
to 80 mm, while the crack length found are exceeding the 100 mm
in some cases. The volumetric defect fraction of the porosity was
3.34% which is slightly higher than area fraction of defects. Thus,
evidence of massive porosity within the cell walls of SAF is well
established from our OM and m-CT analyses. A single macro pore in
the cross-section of a specimen greatly increases the vulnerability
of the specimen to failure since thickness of the specimen approaches the same length scale (  100 mm) of some identied
macro pores. It is hypothesized that the materials response to
tensile loading will be affected by the void fraction and distribution of these defects and is further discussed in Section 4.2.

EBSD analysis was carried out to investigate the microstructural


and crystallographic features of the SAFs. Fig. 4 shows the orientation mapping of an SAF cell wall (in-plane). The color level of
each pixel in the inverse pole gure (IPF) is dened according to
the deviation of the measured orientation. Black regions indicate
the presence of second phase intermetallic particles. Grain
boundary mapping shows that very few sub-grain structures are
present.
It is shown that the grain sizes within the cell wall are up to
several hundred micrometres. Notably, the thickness of the cell
wall is less than the average grain size and the effects of grain size
on the thickness of FCC polycrystalline tensile specimens have
been discussed in [36]. It has been found by [36] that limited

Fig. 5. Cell wall geometry: (a) thickness distribution between two wall joint (plateau border) and (b) Cell-wall thickness distribution of the specimen 12.

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numbers of grains across one of the dimensions of the specimen


(rst order size effect) weaken the polycrystalline structure.
Hence, the presence of rst order size effects [36] is expected to
affect the tensile properties in this experiment due to limited
thickness.
The intermetallic phases of the alloy have been further studied
using scanning electron microscopy coupled with EDS to identify
the point wise elemental compositions. The base alloy has been
found enriched with Al enriched phase whereas intermetallic
phase was enriched with Si and Fe. It is noted that Fe is not present
in the base alloy and that the presence of Fe may come from the
addition of particles [31].

thickness is not uniform throughout the specimen length; thicknesses of cell walls were varied between the plateau borders. Fig. 5
(a) shows the typical thickness distribution of cell walls between
two plateau borders (sample 12), which exhibited the approximate
average thickness values across all specimens. As observed in
Fig. 5, the thickness remains 100 710 mm within the constant wall
thickness section, with few local inhomogeneities.
Fig. 6 shows optical micrographs typical cell wall cross-section.
It was observed that the microstructure along the cross-section is
almost identical to the microstructure along longitudinal surface.
The particle distribution is again random with micro-pores and
micro-cracks present along the cross-section of cell wall.

3.2. Characteristics of tensile specimen

3.3. Digital image correlation

Cell wall thicknesses have been measured using sharp angle


high precision conical micrometres and OM image analyses. The
tolerance for the measurements using the conical micrometre is
75 mm. The average thickness of the cell walls was found to be
between 70 mm and 140 mm. Measurements were taken at 250
points from 50 cell walls on the same foam to capture the variance
in thickness of cell walls. It has been observed that the cell wall

Digital image correlation (DIC) was implemented to measure


the deformation and strain elds in situ. Strain measurements
from the DIC technique were compared to an extensometer integrated with the testing machine in addition to a laser extensometer. Prior to testing, the specimens were speckled on both
sides with white and black spray paint to create a surface with
random grey level sufcient for software recognition. A digital

Fig. 6. Cross-section of cell walls (left) and microstructure through thickness of cell wall.

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Fig. 7. Experimental full longitudinal strain eld (yy) of the specimen resulting from the tensile test.

camera (Canon 70D) was placed 0.5 m away from the specimen
and was positioned perpendicular to the specimen surface to avoid
artifacts from false out of plane distortion. A continuous video
recording of 2D deformation was taken for each sample. A LED
light source was used to illuminate the specimen for optimal image quality. The recordings were segmented into 100 images
(1280  1024 pixels) with an initial undeformed image used as a
reference image and a time interval between images was set at
15 s to capture the entire strain to failure process. The measurement of displacements on the surface of the sample and calculation of strains were performed using open image processing
software Ncorr and were later veried using commercial image
analysis software Vic-2D. The DIC analysis process was followed
similar to [36].
The DIC analyses show that the strain measured using the laser
extensometer and normal extensometer were equivalent to within
75%. Aside from an initial strain reading, the extensometer
reading was slightly larger than the DIC measurements. Fig. 7
shows the strain eld and measured strain of three representative
specimens at various stages of deformation. The strain and displacement elds obtained by DIC software reveal a wide variation
in the material responses between specimens. This is likely due to
casting defects varying between samples: porosity size differences
and inhomogeneity in the porosity and ceramic particle distributions. Consequently, the tensile behaviour of cell wall samples of
SAF demonstrated a range of tensile strengths, as discussed in the
next section.

Table 3
Test summary.
Specimen No. Yield stress
(MPa) 0.2%
offset

Ultimate tensile stress


(MPa)

Ultimate tensile strain

Modulus of
Elasticity (GPa)

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
26
29
31

211
191
175
186
172
210
191
187
198
208
188
196
182
164
217
206
191
195
193
172
184
207
237
168
207

2.79
2.69
3.21
2.46
2.63
3.42
3.24
3.36
3.81
3.41
3.39
3.25
2.81
3.45
3.38
2.8
3.56
3.91
3.12
3.81
3.7
2.75
3.41
3.51
2.87

11.21
9.20
8.78
11.31
7.84
7.71
9.57
8.89
9.6
9.88
12.70
13.35
9.78
9.50
11.25
8.5
9.85
8.54
9.41
10.58
9.21
11.41
12.44
8.72
10.22

141
127
137
121
128
148
146
135
128
133
148
135
143
124
138
132
128
131
121
131
132
148
127
141
138

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Fig. 8. Stress-strain curves of tensile tests.

4. Results and discussions


4.1. Tensile properties
A test summary has been presented in Table 3, Figs. 8 and 9
provides visual aide for the distribution of ultimate tensile
strength (UTS), percentage of elongation at UTS, elastic modulus
and yield strength at 0.2% offset. The average UTS, yield strength,
modulus of elasticity and elongation at UTS of 25 specimens with
standard deviation have been estimated as: 192 714.69 MPa,
13478.05 MPa, 9.7 7 1.54 GPa and 3.2 7 0.38% respectively.
Representative uniaxial tensile stress versus strain curves of the
cell wall material of SAF are shown in the Fig. 8. Each curve of
different cell walls shows approximately linear elastic behaviour
and tensile strength reaches the ultimate value when the elastic
limit is about to end followed by sudden drop. The stress-strain

curves demonstrate the linear elongation behaviour and the slope


of the curves represents the elastic modulus  9.7 GPa. The specimens fully fractured just after the ultimate tensile load was attained. All 33 specimens were tested under the same conditions.
However, a few of the samples were discarded during the test due
to some local bending at the time of insertion of the specimen in
the pneumatic gripper and are omitted from Table 3 and subsequent gures.
Specimens were analyzed post mortem; Fig. 10 shows the representative fracture proles of tensile specimens and DIC images
of the strain elds just before fracture for ve specimens that are
representative of the full range of strain to failure. The DIC analyses show that specimens exhibiting larger total strains to failure
contain a larger area of high strain than specimens exhibiting
lower strains to failure.
The fracture surfaces of the specimens reveal two types of

Fig. 9. Ultimate tensile stress and strain measured in the experiment.

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253

Fig. 10. DIC failure analysis of tensile specimens.

failure: a cleavage of the particles surrounded by the micro-pores


and a dimple and tear fracture. The cleavage fracture mode occurs due to the high amount of silicon content between the particles. The dimple and tear fracture mode is due to the presence
of particle and void defects acting as concentrators for crack nucleation and propagation. It is reasonable to assume that under the
applied stress conditions the elastic and plastic deformation
properties of intermetallic particles are different from that of the
metal matrix. Moreover, micro-cracks and micro pores reduced
the elastic energy absorption in the cell wall materials of the SAF.
According to Grifth crack theory and energy balance theory, the
existence of cracks decreases the elastic energy in the system
[37,38]. Consequently, the decrease of elastic energy due to the
micro-cracks and voids results in spontaneous core brittle cracks.
The intermetallic particles are also considered to act as stress
raiser and also serve as weak links in the microstructure. These
intermetallic particles in the materials assisted in favour of severing the metallic matrix decreasing the ductility and eventually
resulted cleavage fracture.
The elastic limit of the base metal matrix undergoing quasistatic tension is considered to be lower than the material containing second phase particles. Deformation proceeds through the
metal matrix results a cleavage surface and a separation between

the metal matrix and particles takes place. It is considered that the
cleavage occurred rstly in the more brittle -AlFeSi second phase
particles, which are present throughout the entire cell wall. Only a
small portion of area was fractured in ductile manner, evident
from the minimal necking of -Al as the cell wall contains a large
amount of the relatively hard and brittle -AlFeSi particles. As a
result, cracks propagate through the randomly oriented network
of intermetallic phase and fracture path is trans-granular. Although the cell walls are considered to be multicrystalline due to
the large grain size in relation to the cell wall thickness, the grain
boundaries do not play a signicant role in the fracture behaviour
in this uniaxial tensile experiment.
The average tensile response was compared to the tensile response of the nearest base alloy available found in the open literature [39,40]. It is found that the tensile strength for the individual cell-wall of SAFs is lower than its nearest base alloy
properties (Fig. 11). Moreover, strain to failure of cell wall materials
is approximately half of the base alloy materials. Accountability for
this low strain to failure again can be ascribed to porosities in cell
wall materials and mismatching of elastic energy of intermetallic
particles and metal matrix.

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M.A. Islam et al. / Materials Science & Engineering A 666 (2016) 245256

Fig. 11. Average stress-strain curve of cell-wall materials of SAF and base alloy.

Fig. 12. Crack propagation during tensile failure for specimen. (af) represents different location of crack propagation.

4.2. Microstructure
Variation in the nal elongation and UTS of the specimens are
considerable, 31% and 34%, respectively, therefore; two specimens
have been chosen that are characteristic of the lowest and highest
strain to failure for post mortem analysis of the fracture surface to
elucidate the roll of microstructure on crack propagation.
The strain eld of specimen 6 (lowest elongation, 2.6%) shows
that the deformation remains limited in a narrow lateral strip of
the specimen (Fig. 10). Conversely, specimen 27 exhibits larger
deformation (4.2%) to failure. Tensile specimens 6 and 27 are further analyzed by means of OM to investigate the variation of
elongation as is shown by Figs. 12 and 13. From comparing the
microstructure of longitudinal section of the fractured surface of
these two specimens, it was found that along the crack path of

specimen 6, there were a number of large voids, reducing the cross


sectional area, thusly increasing the stress during the tensile
testing The width of the displacement elds obtained from DIC
(strain variation) are inuenced by the particles and micro-pore
distribution in the matrix. The microstructure of longitudinal
sections near the fracture surfaces of both specimens reveal that
the crack propagates in the eutectic Al-Si, circumventing clusters
of Al-dendrites. Microstructures of both specimens show that
ceramic particles along the crack path were broken and disordered. The crack prole also indicates that the crack path followed the weakest path along the cross-section of the specimen,
following regions with a high void fraction with respect to the
thickness and weak regions rich with b-AlFeSi. It is likely that the
fracture path initially started from a single macro-void surrounded
by a high concentration of particle and b-AlFeSi.

M.A. Islam et al. / Materials Science & Engineering A 666 (2016) 245256

255

Fig. 13. Crack propagation during tensile failure; (af) represent different location of crack propagation.

Finally, the cell wall materials have demonstrated brittle behaviour due to the b-AlFeSi phase as shown in the EDS analysis.
Ductility of the cell wall is expected to increase if the Fe and Si
content in the alloy are reduced. According to Miserez et al. and
Dutta et al. [41,42], heat treatment of the material may increase
the ductility since it transform from b-AlFeSi phase to a-AlFeSi
phase, however; heat treatment of the closed cell foam is a complex process and the internal gas pressure inside the cell may
cause further reduction of strength.

5. Conclusions
The microstructure along with the uniaxial tensile and deformation behaviours of individual cell wall elements of closedcell SAF was studied. From this study, it is clear that the nature of
the microstructure (void defects and particles) of the cell walls has
a signicant effect on the mechanical behaviour of closed-cell SAF.
The following specic conclusions can be drawn from the investigation of microstructural and strength properties of SAFs:
1. The microstructure of the cell wall materials of closed cell aluminium alloy foams reveal that the cell wall materials consist of
eutectic Al-Si and dendritic -Al structure with an irregular
distribution of intermetallic particles, micro-pores and microcracks. The grains were, on average, on a similar length scale as
the thickness of the cell walls; varying in size between
50 700 mm.
2. DIC analysis showed the strain elds of individual cell wall
specimens during the tensile loading. Narrow DIC displacement
and strain elds with respect to the loading direction were
prevalent in specimens that underwent lower strains to failure.
Post mortem OM analysis along the crack path showed such
specimens contained larger voids and irregular particle depositions across the areas of localized strain shown in the DIC
analysis.
3. Tensile behaviour of cell wall elements of SAFs demonstrated a
range of (UTS: 164 211 MPa) tensile strengths. Post-mortem

analysis of fractured surface provided insight into the micromechanics of cell wall failure. The failure has been observed as
combination of little ductile tearing and largely cleavage fracture. The presence of micro-pores and micro-cracks provided a
natural path of crack propagation. Specically, the combination
of high void fraction regions and b-AlFeSi was the preferred
pathway of crack propagation. Moreover, the mismatch of
elastic and plastic properties between particles and metal matrix resulted in brittle fracture of the specimens.
4. Finally, future optimization of the closed cell metallic foam
clearly require the understanding of the interplay between
processing condition, cell wall microstructure and mechanical
characterization under various types of applied load.

Acknowledgements
The authors gratefully acknowledge the UNSW Canberra Defence Related Research Scheme that part-funded this work. The
authors would like to thank Pat Nolan for the modication of
tensile setup. M. A. I also thanks David Sharp for his insightful
suggestions on sample preparation for micro analysis. Finally, authors thankfully acknowledge the laboratory facility provided by
Department of Applied Mathematics, Australian National University for the m-CT and image analysis.

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