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Acta Metall Sin  2018, Vol. 54 Issue (9): 1273-1280    DOI: 10.11900/0412.1961.2018.00125
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Sn-Induced Modification of the Precipitation Pathways upon High-Temperature Ageing in an Al-Mg-Si Alloy
Xuemei XIANG, Yuxiang LAI, Chunhui LIU, Jianghua CHEN()
College of Materials Science and Engineering, Hunan University, Changsha 410082, China
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The 6xxx series aluminum alloys (Al-Mg-Si(-Cu) alloys) are widely used for the industrial applications in the lightweight construction, automotive and architecture because of their light weight, medium to high strength, excellent formability and good corrosion resistance. It has been reported that trace Sn addition can accelerate ageing kinetics and increase peak hardness of Al-Mg-Si alloys when ageing at high temperatures (>210 ℃). However, the mechanism about it has not been investigated comprehensively yet. For Mg-excess Al-Mg-Si alloys, when aged at 250 ℃, the alloys are hardened by the β'-precipitates. While after applying natural ageing prior to artificial ageing, the β"-precipitates will be formed, with the percentage of which increasing with natural ageing time, and eventually become the main hardening precipitates. In this work, the effect of Sn on natural ageing and subsequent artificial ageing at 250 ℃ in a Mg-rich Al-Mg-Si alloy was investigated by Vickers microhardness measurements and TEM. The results show that adding a small amount (0.2%, mass fraction) of Sn in the Mg-rich Al-Mg-Si alloy can modify the precipitation pathways upon 250 ℃-ageing: when the alloy is directly artificially aged, the β"-precipitates are dominant, whereas when the alloy is subjected to "natural ageing+artificial ageing" treatment, upon prolonged natural ageing time, the percentage of β"-precipitates would not increase but decrease and that of β'-precipitates would not decrease but increase, but ultimately the β"-precipitates are still dominant over the β'-precipitates. The Sn-induced modification of the precipitation pathways can significantly enhance the age-hardening potential of the alloy upon high-temperature artificial ageing. The addition of Sn increases the effective Si-concentration in the matrix, and consequently changes the precipitation pathways in the Sn-free alloy, which is different from the explanation proposed in literatures.

Key words:  Al-Mg-Si alloy      ageing      precipitation      trace element      transmission electron microscopy     
Received:  04 April 2018     
ZTFLH:  TG113  
Fund: Supported by National Key Research and Development Program of China (No.2016YFB0300801) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos.11427806, 51471067 and 51671082)

Cite this article: 

Xuemei XIANG, Yuxiang LAI, Chunhui LIU, Jianghua CHEN. Sn-Induced Modification of the Precipitation Pathways upon High-Temperature Ageing in an Al-Mg-Si Alloy. Acta Metall Sin, 2018, 54(9): 1273-1280.

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Fig.1  Evolution of hardness during natural ageing for the Al-Mg-Si alloy (a) and Al-Mg-Si-Sn alloy (b)
Fig.2  Evolution of hardness during artificial ageing at 250 ℃ after different natural ageing delay times for the Al-Mg-Si alloy (a, b)[20] and Al-Mg-Si-Sn alloy (c, d). Figs.2b[20] and d show the corresponding peak-hardness for artificial ageing vs natural ageing time
Fig.3  Bright-field TEM images of the precipitate morphologies (a, c, e) and the corresponding precipitate length distributions (b, d, f) of the Al-Mg-Si-Sn alloys peak-aged at 250 ℃ for 5 min after different natural ageing time
(a, b) without natural ageing (c, d) natural ageing for 4 d (e, f) natural ageing for 2 weeks
Fig.4  HRTEM images and the corresponding FFT patterns (insets) of the main precipitates in the Al-Mg-Si-Sn alloys peak-aged at 250 ℃ for 5 min after different natural ageing times
(a) without natural ageing (b) natural ageing for 4 d (c, d) natural ageing for 2 weeks
Fig.5  The relative frequencies of β"-precipitate and β’-precipitate in the Al-Mg-Si alloy (a)[20] and Al-Mg-Si-Sn alloy (b) upon peak ageing at 250 ℃ following different natural ageing durations (NA—natural ageing)
Fig.6  An illustration of the effect of matrix Si-concentration (CSi(+Sn)) on nucleation energy barriers (?Gβ’ and ?Gβ”) of β’ and β” (C0Si(+Sn)—the value at which ?Gβ’=?Gβ”; Ceqβ"Si(+Sn) and CeqβSi(+Sn)—the critical CSi(+Sn) needed for the formation of β” and β’, respectively; ΔG—nucleation energy)[11]
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