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Wear 181-183 (1995) 563-570

Dry sliding wear of Al alloy 2024~A1203 particle composites

aDepartment of Metallurgv Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore-560012,
Department of Mechanical India Engineering. Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore-560012,

metal matrix

Manish Narayan a, M.K. Surappa a~*, B.N. Pramila Bai b


Received 6 May 1994


In the present investigation, Al 2024-15vol.%AI,O, particulate (average size, 18 pm) composites were fabricated using the liquid metallurgy route. The wear and friction characteristics of Al alloy 2024 and Al 2024-15vol.%A1203, composite in the as-extruded and peak-aged conditions were studied using a pin-on-disc machine (with a steel disc as the counter-face material).
The worn surfaces, subsurfaces and the debris were analysed in a scanning electron microscope. The performance of the composite in the as-extruded condition is slightly inferior to that of the unreinforced alloy. However, in the T6 condition, although the wear rates of two materials are initially comparable, the unreinforced alloy seizes while the composite does not within the tested range employed. In the as-extruded condition, the presence of A1203 particles is not particularly beneficial as they fracture and result in extensive localized cracking and removal of material from the surface. In the peak-aged condition, however, while the unreinforced alloy exhibits severe plastic deformation and undergoes seizure, there is no significant change in the mechanism in the case of the composite. Except in the case of the peak-aged unreinforced alloy, worn surfaces of all other materials show the presence of an iron-rich layer.
Keywords: MM@ Al 2024-A1203 composites; Aluminium matrix composites; Sliding wear

1. Introduction Aluminium-based metal matrix composites are well known for their high specific strength, stiffness and hardness. They are gaining further importance as their potential for wear resistance becomes established.

In general, for sliding against metals and abrasives, many studies have reported [l-15] that composites exhibit better wear resistance than the unreinforced alloys. Further, Axen et al. [15] have noted that, in a variety of wear conditions, the particulate-reinforced composites perform better than do the fibre-reinforced composites. In recent years, however, the simplistic notion that the reinforcement of aluminium alloys with ceramic particles improves wear resistance is being replaced by acceptance of the fact that the wear of metal matrix composites is a vexy complex process. From the material point of view, factors that are relevant are the com* Corresponding author.

position and mechanical properties of the matrix (as determined by the history of processing), the hardness and chemical stability of the particles, and the composition and strength of the interface. These together with tribological parameters such as load and speed range, environment and the properties of the counterface material are responsible for the overall response. A number of recent studies have examined these finer aspects of wear process. In the case of A356-SiCP composites sliding against steel in a pin-on-ring arrangement, Alpas and Zhang [13] have observed that at low loads (less than 10 N), the Sic particles act as load-bearing elements and abrade the steel. This leads to the formation of an iron-rich surface layer. At high loads (greater than 10 N) the Sic particles fracture and fragment and the mechanism of wear changes to one of subsurface crack nucleation and propagation. In the case of the Al,O, reinforcement, fracture and re-embedding of Al,O, particles have been reported [4,14].

0043-1648/95/$09.50 0 1995 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved

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M. Narayan

et al. / Wear 181-183

(1995) 563-570

In their study of dry sliding of A356-Sic, composites against steel in a pin-on-disc arrangement, Pramila Bai et al. [ll] reported that the composites exhibit better wear resistance than the base alloy up to a pressure of 26 MPa. They further note that within this range of pressures there is no change in the wear mechanisms. The role of Sic particles is to reduce the propensity of subsurface flow and to promote the formation of a protective iron-rich layer. While the age-hardenable aluminium alloys such as Al alloys 6061, 2014 and 2024 have been generally studied in the T6 condition [8,9], Pan et al. [8] have reported (for a block of Al 212~Sic, composite sliding against a steel ring) that the effect of aging is to reduce the wear rate when compared with the as-extruded condition. The overaged specimen shows least wear and minimum damage of the steel ring. This has been attributed to the decrease in the pull-out of Sic particles since the crack propagates along the interface of matrix-incoherent precipitate rather than along the Sic particle-matrix interface. The present work is a study of the dry sliding wear of Al 2024-A&0,, composite against steel. The step loading method has been adopted in a pin-on-disc machine to generate wear data in the range 20-280 N. The wear and friction characteristics of as-extruded and heat-treated (T6) composite and unreinforced alloy

have been examined. The surface, subsurface and the debris have been studied using scanning electron microscopy to understand the wear mechanisms.

2. Materials

and methods

A&O, particles of average size 18 pm were dispersed in Al alloy 2024 (Cu, 4.85 at.%; Mg, 0.23 at.%; Mn, 0.52 at.%; Fe, 0.69 at.%; Si, 0.23 at.%; Al, balance) matrix by the melt stir technique [16], and cast as cylinders of 55 mm diameter. From these, billets of 50 mm diameter and 50 mm length were machined. These were then hot extruded at 773 K to a rod of 12 mm diameter. The microstructures of the Al 2024-A&O3 composites are shown in Figs. l(a)-l(c). It can be observed (Fig. l(a)) that the microstructure of the unreinforced alloy consists of complex precipitates containing Cu, Mg and Fe aligned in the extruded direction (indicated by arrows). Figs. l(b) and l(c), corresponding to the microstructure of the Al 2024-15vol.%Al,O,, composite, show that there is a tendency for the A&O, particles to occupy interdendrite regions (Fig. l(b), arrows) and that the extrusion process aligns these dispersed Al,O, particles in the flow direction (Fig. l(c)). Cylindrical pin specimens of 8 mm diameter and 20 mm length were machined from the 12 mm rods.



Fig. 1. (a) Scanning electron micrograph showing Al alloy 2024 in the as-extruded condition. (b) Scanning electron micrograph particles in interdendritic regions. (c) A1203 particles aligned in the extruded direction. (d) Microstructure of the peak-aged

showing AizO, Al alloy 2024.

M. Narayan Table 1 Variation composite 100 gf) Condition Vickers Ahoy hardness (HV)

et al. / Wear 181483

(1995) 563-570 28


in Vickers


of Al alloy 2024 and the metal solutionized peak-aged conditions

matrix (load,
23 -



in the as-extruded,

Al Al +15%

A1203 /

Metal matrix composite 103 115 148

As extruded As quenched Peak aged

83 119 152

The as-extruded Al alloy 2024 and the composite specimens were solutionized at 763 K for 2 h and then quenched in water at room temperature (300 K). The unreinforced alloy and composite samples were aged in a paraffin oil bath at 448 K for 4 h and 1 h respectively to attain the peak-aged condition [17]. The microstructure of the aged Al alloy 2024 is shown in Fig. l(d). The hardness values of unreinforced alloy and composites in different conditions are shown in Table 1. Dry sliding wear experiments were conducted in air at room temperature using a pin-on-disc machine. The disc which acted as the counterface material was made of BS970 535A99 steel (C, 0.9-1.2 at.%; Si, 0.1-0.35 at.%; Mn, 0.3-0.75 at.%; Cr, 1.2-1.6 at.%) hardened to a Rockwell C hardness of 62 HRC. Step-loading experiments were carried out at a constant speed of 1.5 m s-l. At each load the pin was slid for 1 min and the incremental load used was 10 N. Each experiment was repeated three times. Worn surfaces, sections of worn surfaces and debris were observed using the scanning electron microscope. For subsurface observations, worn surfaces were covered with a protective nickel plating and further sectioned, metallographically polished and etched.







150 LOAD (N)



Fig. 2. Comparison of wear rates as a function of load for as-extruded Al alloy 2024 and the metal matrix composite.

2 7 2024 2024 AI-T6 Al + 15%A1203-T6 I


0 LOAD(N) Fig. 3. Comparison of wear rates as a function of load for the pcakaged Al alloy 2024 and the metal matrix composite.

3. Results 3.1. Wear characteristics Fig. 2 shows the variation in wear rate with load for both the Al alloy 2024 and Al 2024-15vol.%Al,O, composite in the as-extruded condition. It can be seen that the wear rate of the unreinforced alloy is lower than that of the composite. Fig. 3 corresponds to the variation in wear with load for the unreinforced alloy and composite in the T6 condition. Up to 30 N, the wear rate of the aged composite is negligible. Beyond 30 N and up to 200 N the wear rates of the two materials are comparable. Beyond 200 N, the wear rate of the peak-aged unreinforced alloy is slightly higher than that of the composite and the unreinforced aged alloy eventually seizes at 230 N. The seizure event was accompanied by a sudden increase in wear rate, heavy noise and vibration. During this process, transfer of pin material to the disc was also observed. This type of seizure has been referred to as galling seizure. The peak-aged composite shows an increasing wear rate between 225 and 260 N, and beyond that the wear rate gradually decreases. There was a certain degree of increased vibration and noise within the above load range. However, with further increase in load (up to 280 N, the maximum limit of the equipment) both noise and vibration reduced and the macroseizure encountered in the case of unreinforced alloy was not observed for the composite. On comparison of the variation in specific wear rate with load (Fig. 4) for the as-extruded and aged conditions of the unreinforced alloy and the composite, it is noted


M. Narayan

et al. / Wear 181-183

(1995) 563-570

, 76 mE

2024 Al w 2024 Al + 1.5 % Alp, w 2024Al-T6 s---a 2024 Al +I5 % A1203 -T6


extruded and the aged condition exhibit lower friction. In the case of the heat-treated unreinforced alloy a sudden increase in the coefficient of friction is observed when seizure occurs. 3.3. Scanning electron microscopy and energy-dispersive X-ray analysk Pin surfaces and subsurfaces were observed at the limiting loading conditions as well as at intermediate loads. Except for the seized pin surface corresponding to the aged unreinforced alloy, the worn surfaces of all other materials have similar features regardless of the load. These worn surfaces consist of long smooth patches, interspersed by craters (Figs. 6(a) and 6(b)). A high magnification view (of the region circled in Fig. 6(a)) in Fig. 6(c) shows fine grooves and flow marks in these smooth regions. A cracked region in the middle suggests that a crater is formed when material is removed from such spots and these craters (as seen in Figs. 6(a) and 6(b)) are filled by entrapped debris. In addition to the above, the worn surface of the composite shows evidence of severe localized cracking (Fig. 6(d)). Most of the worn surface of the peak-aged unreinforced alloy shows evidence of severe shearing (Fig. 6(e)). The sheared material can be seen to consist of a number of thin layers (Fig. 6(f)). In contrast, the surface of the peak-aged composite worn at 280 N appears (Fig. 6(g)) similar to those at lower loads and the absence of any significant surface shear is to be noted. The subsurface of as-extruded unreinforced alloy shows (Fig. 7(a)) bending of extrusion flow lines in the sliding direction. The fine precipitates (observed along flow lines) are dispersed uniformly and aligned parallel to the sliding direction in the near-surface region. Figs. 7(b) and 7(c), corresponding to the subsurface of asextruded composite, show fragmentation and dispersion of alumina particles in the near-surface region. In the case of the peak-aged unreinforced alloy and the composite, the subsurface did not show any significant amount of plastic flow. This was verified by both perpendicular and oblique sections of the worn surface. Fig. 7(d), an oblique section, shows that the grain structure is hardly disturbed even in near-surface regions. Energy-dispersive X-ray analysis (with ZAF corrections where 2 is the atomic number, A the absorption correction factor and F the fluorescence correction factor) of as-extruded pin surfaces shows the presence of iron on worn surfaces. The iron content of the worn surface of the composite at low loads (Fig. 8) is higher than that of the unreinforced alloy, while at higher loads both are comparable. The peak-aged and seized unreinforced specimen showed absolutely no iron while the peak-aged composite specimen, worn at 280 N, showed the presence of iron although somewhat less

I 6L




150 LOAD(N)




Fig. 4. Comparison of specific wear rates as a function of load for the as-extruded and peak-aged Al alloy 2024 and the metal matrix composite.

o.40 1
g 0.35 u t


8 0.20

H c--a 2024 2024 2024

Al Al

+ 15 *I. Al 203 T6

Al -

Al + 15%A1203-T6






150 LOAD(N)


Fig. 5. Comparison of the coefficients of friction as a function of load for the as-extruded and peak-aged Al alloy 2024 and the metal matrix composite.

that all the four materials show similar specific wear rates with the exception of the aged unreinforced alloy at 230 N. Further, within this narrow band it is noted that the heat-treated composite shows better wear resistance than that in the as-extruded condition. However, no such trend is observed in the case of the unreinforced alloy. 3.2. Friction characteristics The variation in the coefficient of friction with load for all the four test materials is shown in Fig. 5. There is an initial increase in the coefficient of friction with increase in load for all the materials. Up to about 150 N, all the materials exhibit a similar coefficient of friction. Beyond 150 N, the composite in both the as-

M. Narayan

et al. I Wear 18I-183

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Fig. 6. Scanning electron micrographs corresponding to (a) as-extruded Al alloy 2024 worn at 250 N, (b) as-extruded Al 2024-15vol.%Al,Os composite worn at 230 N, (c) as-extruded At alloy 2024 worn at 250 N (high magnification view of the circled region in (a), (d) as-extruded Al 2024-15vol.%Al,O, composite worn at 230 N, (e) peak-aged Al ahoy 2024 worn at 230 N, (f) a high magnification view of the surface shown in (e) and (g) the peak-aged Al 2024-15vol.%A120, composite worn at 280 N.


M. Narayan et al. I Wear 181-183

(1995) 563-570


Fig. 7. Scanning electron micrographs of subsurface sections, made parallel to sliding directions, perpendicular to the worn surface. These correspond to (a) Al alloy 2024, (b) Al 2024-15vol.%A1203 composite, (c) the subsurface of Al 2024-15v0l.%A1~0~ and (d) the subsurface of Al alloy 2024 in the peak-aged condition.

than that shown for as-extruded condition. However, for the seized Al alloy 2024 in T6 condition, the subsurfaces of all other materials showed some amount of iron in very-near-surface regions and a visible ironrich layer is present in patches. The debris are mainly of three different types: fine particles (which are mainly present as agglomerates), wide but thin platelets and large chunks. Occasionally, ribbon-like debris and nearly spherical debris are also present. Fig. 9 shows different types of debris in the case of the as-extruded unreinforced alloy and the composite. Energy-dispersive X-ray analysis (carried out with debris dispersed on a polished pure lead substrate) showed that the ribbon-like and near-spherical particles essentially contain Fe, while the rest of the types showed the presence of both Al and Fe.

4. Discussion: the role of reinforcement The present study does not indicate a beneficial role of alumina particles during the wear process for materials in the as-extruded condition. The extruded Al alloy 2024 as such contains fine precipitate particles aligned along extrusion lines. In the case of the composite, alumina particles are also aligned along extrusion lines. The presence of these somewhat coarse particles possibly limits the degree of surface flow but at the same time results in severe localized surface cracking. Further, unlike Sic particles which are known to bear the load and prevent surface plastic flow [11,13], the alumina particles become fragmented and dispersed [4,14]. Thus the difference between the near-surface regions of as-extruded Al alloy 2024 and the composite seems to be only the volume fraction of the hard



et al.

/ Wear





C--O H

2024 2024

Al Al +I5 % A1203








LOAD(N) Fig. 8. Variation in iron content on the worn surface of as-extruded peak-aged Al alloy 2024 and the metal matrix composite with load.

particles present. Thus the more discontinuous composite exhibits higher wear. The heat treatment seems to bring about another feature. Most of the solutes go into solution and become finely precipitated. The Al alloy 2024 shows grain boundary precipitates as well, and this material exhibits seizure, while the composite does not, even when the load is increased to 280 N. Under these conditions the presence of alumina particles seems to be beneficial. According to Blok s [18] postulate, seizure occurs when two surfaces in contact reach a certain critical temperature. One possible explanation for the absence of seizure is that it is related to the picking up of iron from the counterface. In the case of Al-S1 alloys it is well established that, when iron-rich surface layers are formed, the wear is low or mild [19]. In the present case also, the presence of iron on the worn surfaces supports this view. The difference, however, is that, in the case of Al-Si alloys, a well-formed continuous ironrich layer is observed while, in the case of the Al alloy 2024 and its composite, the iron-rich layer appears to be generally patchy. However, the presence of even such a layer appears beneficial, considering the fact that the iron containing worn surfaces of peak-aged composite material do not undergo seizure, even when the load is increased to 280 N. Another reason for non-observation of seizure may be due to the difference in mechanical properties. Table 2 shows the influence of heat treatment on dynamic yield strength andJ,, (dynamicJintegra1 fracture toughness corresponds to the ASTM standard [20]), as obtained in an instrumented impact toughness tests on similar material [17]. The increase in dynamic yield strength as a result of heat treatment is expected to restrict plastic deformation for both materials. However, the small variation in Jld in the case of the composite


Fig. 9. Scanning electron micrographs of the wear debris of asextruded and peak-aged Al alloy 2024 and the metal matrix composite.

suggests that the proneness of the material to crack nucleation and propagation does not significantly change owing to heat treatment. Thus it may be expected that there may be marginal difference between the wear characteristics for the two conditions. Further, cracking and dislodging of debris may be considered as mechanisms of heat dissipation which will prevent the rubbing surfaces from reaching the critical condition required for seizure. In the case of the unreinforced alloy, the influence of Jld becomes seemingly relevant at high loads. The propensity for subsurface plastic deformation increases with increasing load and, in the absence of easy heat dissipation process, the critical temperature


M. Narayan et al. I Wear 181-183

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Table 2 Dynamic yield strengths and Jr, values of AI ahoy 2024 and Al 202.4-15vol.%AI,O, composite in the as-extruded and peak-aged conditions [17] Property Value As extruded

Acknowledgment The authors wish to thank the Department of Science and Technology for financial support during the course of the investigations. References
PI PI [31 [41 PI PI [71
A. Sato and R. Mehrabian, Metall. Trans. B, 7 (1976) 443. M.K. Surappa, S.V. Prasad and PK. Rohatgi, Wear, 77 (1982) 295. F.M. Hosking, F.F. Portillo, R. Wunderiin and R. Mehrabian, L Mater. Sci., 17 (1982) 477. K. Anand and Kishore, Wear, 85 (1983) 163. F. Rana and D.M. Stefanescu, Metall. Trans. A, 20 (1989) 1564. A.T. Aipas and J.D. Embury, Ser. MetaLMater., 24 (1990) 931. A. Jokinen and P. Andersson, I+uc. Power Metallurgy Conf and Exhib., Metal Powder Industries Federation, Pittsburgh, PA, 1990. Y.M. Pan, M.E. Cheng and H.S. Fine, ser. Metall., 24 (1990) 1341. A.R. Nesarikar, S.N. Tiwari and E.E. Graham, Mater. Sci. Eng., AI47 (1991) 191. M. Roy, B. Vekataraman, V.V. Bhanuprasad, Y.R. Mahajan Metall. Trans. A, 23 (1992) 2833. and G. Sundararajan, B.N. Pramila Bai, B.S. Ramasesh and M.K. Surappa, Wear, 157 (1992) 295. O.P. Modi, B.K. Prasad, A.H. Yagneswaran and M.L. Vaidya, Mater. Sci. Eng., A151 (1992) 235. A.T. Aipas and J. Zhang, Wear, 155 (1992) 83. J. Zhang and A.T. Aipas, Mater. Sci. Eng., AI61 (1993) 273. N. Axen, A. Alahelisten and S. Jacobson, Wear, 174 (1994) 95. M. Vasudevan and M.K. Surappa, Froc. ht. Con& on Advances in Composite Materials, Bombay, 14-18 January 1990, Oxford and IBH, Bombay, 1991, p. 265. R. Giridhar and M.K. Surappa, Proc. 9th Con& on Composite Materials, Madrid, 12-16 July 1993, 1993. A. Dyson, Tribol. Int., 8 (1975) 77. A. Somi Reddy, B.N. Pramila Bai, K.S.S. Murthy and SK. Biswas, Wear, 171 (1994) 115. ASTM Stand E 813, 1989.

Peak Alloy

aged Metal matrix composite 297.0

Metal matrix composite 200.9

Dynamic (MPa) &

yield stress



(kJ m-*)





conditions for seizure is attained. The seizure, however, removes an entire slab of deformed material, leaving a nearly undisturbed surface. Similar observations have been made in the case of Al-Si alloys [193.


5. Conclusions

1131 P41 P51 PI

From the present study, the following can be inferred, (1) The Al 2024-15vol.%Al,O, composite shows better seizure resistance than does the unreinforced alloy in the peak-aged condition. (2) In the as-extruded condition the wear resistance of the unreinforced alloy is better than that of the composite.

1171 WI WI PO1