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Effect of Zn on the grain boundary precipitates and resulting alkaline etching of recycled Al-Mg-Si-Cu alloys

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

The Zinc level in many 6000 Al alloys (Al-Mg-Si-type) was set to a maximum of 0.03 wt% as common industrial practice. Concentrations above 0.03 wt% can modify the alkaline etching mechanism causing the surface to go from a desired smooth look associated with a grain boundary attack (GBA), into an undesired speckled appearance due to preferential grain etching (PGE), visible after anodizing. This significantly limits the ambition of reducing the carbon footprint of Aluminum by increasing the amount of recycled material in the production process. Because Cu has been reported to counteract this negative effect of Zn, the present study is dedicated to contribute to the understanding of this interaction and is focused on Zn and Cu in peak aged AlMgSi alloys. The chemical composition of the various precipitates formed in two Al6063 alloys was studied by means of TEM and EDX, whereby Zn was found in the Q phase (AlMgSiCu) grain boundary precipitates. Two alloys, with different content of Cu and Zn were studied. The Zn/Cu ratio in the bulk was similar for both alloys, but the level of Zn in the Cu containing Q particles in the grain boundaries was different. The increased Zn concentration in Q phase precipitates is believed to decrease the potential of the precipitates with respect to the surrounding matrix. Thus, the Cu/Zn ratio in these alloys is extremely important as it defines the potential differences that in turn cause either GBA or PGE.
Journal: Journal of Alloys and Compounds
ISSN: 0925-8388
Volume: 794
Pages: 435-442
Number of pages: 8
Publication year:2019
Keywords:Aluminum (Al-Mg-Si) alloy, Etching mechanism, Precipitates, Preferential grain etching, TEM EDX, Zinc, Physical chemistry, Materials science