Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Chemical and Materials Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Tongguang Zhai


AA6061 Al alloys modified with addition of Mn, Cr and Cu were homogenized at temperatures between 350 ºC and 550 ºC after casting. STEM experiments revealed that the formation of α-Al(MnFeCr)Si dispersoids during homogenization were strongly affected by various factors such as heating rate, concentration of Mn, low temperature pre-nucleation treatment and homogenization temperature. Through analysis of the STEM results using an image software Image-Pro, the size distributions and number densities of the dispersoids formed during different annealing treatments were quantitatively measured. It was revealed that increasing the heating rate or homogenization temperature led to a reduction of the number density and an increase in size of the dispersoids. The number density of dispersoids could be markedly increased through a low temperature pre-nucleation treatment. A higher Mn level resulted in the larger number density, equivalent size and length/width ratio of the dispersoids in the alloy.

Upsetting tests on two of these Mn and Cr-containing AA6061 (Al-Mg-Si-Cu) Al alloys with distinctive Mn contents were carried out at a speed of 15 mm s-1 under upsetting temperature of 450 ºC after casting and subsequent homogenization heat treatment using a 300-Tone hydraulic press. STEM experiments revealed that the finely distributed α-Al(MnFeCr)Si dispersoids formed during homogenization showed a strong pinning effect on dislocations and grain boundaries, which could effectively inhibit recovery and recrystallization during hot deformation in the two alloys. The fractions of recrystallization after hot deformation and following solution heat treatment were measured in the two alloys with EBSD. It was found that the recrystallization fractions of the two alloys were less than 30%. This implied that the finely distributed α-dispersoids were rather stable against coarsening and they stabilized the microstructure by inhibiting recovery and recrystallization by pinning dislocations during deformation and annealing at elevated temperatures. By increasing the content of Mn, the effect of retardation on recrystallization were further enhanced due to the formation of higher number density of the dispersoids.

STEM and 3-D atom probe tomography experiments revealed that α-Al(MnFeCr)Si dispersoids were formed upon dissolution of lathe-shaped Q-AlMgSiCu phase during homogenization of the modified AA6061 Al alloy. It was, for the first time, observed that Mn segregated at the Q-phase/matrix interfaces in Mn-rich regions in the early stage of homogenization, triggering the transformation of Q-phase into strings of Mn-rich dispersoids afterwards. Meanwhile, in Mn-depleted regions the Q-phase remained unchanged without segregation of Mn at the Q-phase/matrix interfaces. Upon completion of α-phase transformation, the atomic ratio of Mn and Si was found to be 1:1 in the α-phase. The strengthening mechanisms in the alloy were also quantitatively interpreted, based on the measurements of chemical compositions, dispersoids density and size, alloy hardness and resistivity as a function of the annealing temperature. This study clarified the previous confusion about the formation mechanism of α-dispersoids in 6xxx series Al alloys.

Four-point bend fatigue tests on two modified AA6061 Al alloys with different Si contents (0.80 and 1.24 wt%, respectively) were carried out at room temperature, f = 20 Hz, R = 0.1, and in ambient air. The stress-number of cycles to failure (S-N) curves of the two alloys were characterized. The alloys were solution heat treated, quenched in water, and peak aged. Optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy were employed to capture a detailed view of the fatigue crack initiation behaviors of the alloys. Fatigue limits of the two alloys with the Si contents of 0.80 and 1.24 wt% were measured to be approximately 224 and 283.5 MPa, respectively. The number of cracks found on surface was very small (1~3) and barely increased with the applied stress, when the applied stress was below the yield strength. However, it was increased sharply with increase of the applied stress to approximately the ultimate tensile strength. Fatigue crack initiation was predominantly associated with the micro-pores in the alloys. SEM examination of the fracture surfaces of the fatigued samples showed that the crack initiation pores were always aspheric in shape with the larger dimension in depth from the sample surface. These tunnel-shaped pores might be formed along grain boundaries during solidification or due to overheating of the Si-containing particles during homogenization.

A quantitative model, which took into account the 3-D effects of pores on the local stress/strain fields in surface, was applied to quantification of the fatigue crack population in a modified AA6061 Al alloy under cyclic loading. The pores used in the model were spherical in shape, for simplicity, with the same size of 7 μm in diameter. The total volume fraction of the pores in the model were same as the area fraction of the pores measured experimentally in the alloy. The stress and strain fields around each pore near the randomly selected surface in a reconstructed digital pore structure of the alloy were quantified as a function of pore position in depth from the surface using a 3-D finite element model under different stress levels. A micro-scale Manson-Coffin equation was used to estimate the fatigue crack incubation life at each of the pores in the surface and subsurface. The population of fatigue cracks initiated at an applied cyclic loading could be subsequently quantified. The simulated results were consistent with those experimentally measured, when the applied maximum cyclic stress was below the yield strength, but the model could not capture the sudden increase in crack population at UTS, as observed in the alloy. This discrepancy in crack population was likely to be due to the use of the spherical pores in the model, as these simplified pores could not show the effects of pore shape and their orientations on crack initiation at the pores near surface. Although it is presently very time-consuming to calculate the crack population as a function of pore size and shape in the alloy with the current model, it would still be desirable to incorporate the effects of shape and orientation of the tunnel-shaped pores into the model, in the future, in order to simulate the fatigue crack initiation more accurately in the alloy.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Funding for this research was provided by Suzhou Research Institute for Nonferrous Metals, China.