Ph.D. Dissertation Defense by Tracie L. Durbin
Thursday, March 17, 2005

(Dr. Paul Neitzel, C0-Chair)

"Modeling Dissolution in Aluminum Alloys "


Aluminum and its alloys are used in many aspects of modern life, from soda cans and household foil to the automobiles and aircraft in which we travel. Aluminum alloy systems are characterized by good workability that enables these alloys to be economically rolled, extruded, or forged into useful shapes. Mechanical properties such as strength are altered significantly with cold working, annealing, precipitation-hardening, and/or heat-treatments. Heat-treatable aluminum alloys contain one or more soluble constituents such as copper, lithium, magnesium, silicon and zinc that individually, or with other elements, can form phases that strengthen the alloy.

Microstructure development is highly dependent on all of the processing steps the alloy experiences. Ultimately, the macroscopic properties of the alloy depend strongly on the microstructure. Therefore, a quantitative understanding of the microstructural changes that occur during thermal and mechanical processing is fundamental to predicting alloy properties. In particular, the microstructure becomes more homogeneous and secondary phases are dissolved during thermal treatments. Robust physical models for the kinetics of particle dissolution are necessary to predict the most efficient thermal treatment.

A general dissolution model for multi-component alloys has been developed using the front-tracking method to study the dissolution of precipitates in an aluminum alloy matrix. This technique is applicable to any alloy system, provided thermodynamic and diffusion data are available. Treatment of the precipitate interface is explored using two techniques: the immersed-boundary method and a new technique, termed here the “sharp-interface” method. The sharp-interface technique is based on a variation of the ghost fluid method and eliminates the need for corrective source terms in the characteristic equations. In addition, the sharp-interface method is shown to predict the dissolution behavior of precipitates in aluminum alloys when compared with published experimental results. The influence of inter-particle spacing is examined and shown to have a significant effect on dissolution kinetics. Finally, the impact of multiple particles of various sizes interacting in an aluminum matrix is investigated. It is shown that smaller particles dissolve faster, as expected, but influence the dissolution of larger particles through soft-impingement, even after the smaller particles have disappeared.