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Assessment and modelling of particle clustering in cast aluminum matrix composites

Çetin, Arda
The damage and deformation behaviour of particle reinforced aluminum matrix composites can be highly sensitive to local variations in spatial distribution of reinforcement particles, which markedly depend on melt processing and solidification stages during production. The present study is aimed at understanding the mechanisms responsible for clustering of SiC particles in an Al-Si-Mg (A356) alloy composite during solidification process and establishing a model to predict the risk of cluster formation as a function of local solidification rate in a cast component. Special emphasis has been given to spatial characterization methods in terms of their suitability to characterize composite microstructures. Result indicate that methods that present a summary statistics on the global level of heterogeneity have limited application in quantitative analysis of discontinuously reinforced composites since the mechanical response of such materials are highly sensitive to dimensions, locations and spatial connectivities of clusters. The local density statistics, on the other hand, was observed to provide a satisfactory description of the microstructure, in terms of localization and quantification of clusters. A macrotransport - solidification kinetics model has been employed to simulate solidification microstructures for estimation of cluster formation tendency. Results show that the distribution of SiC particles is determined by the scale of secondary dendrite arms (SDAS). In order to attain the lowest amount of particle clustering, the arm spacings should be kept within the limit of 2dSiC >SDAS >dSiC, where dSiC is the average particle diameter.