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Lightweight Materials for Aircraft Applications


J-l?Immarigeon, R. T. Holt, A. K. Koul, L. Zhao, W. Wallace, and
J. C. Beddoes*

NRC Institute for Aerospace Research, Ottawa KlA 0R6, Canada and *Department of
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Carleton University, Ottawa KIS SB6, Canada
Reducing structural weight is one of the major ways to improve aircraft performance.
and/or stronger materials allow greater range and speed and may also contribute

Lighter
to reduc-

ing operational costs. The article reviews some recent developments in lightweight materials for airframe components (aluminum alloys, composites, and hybrid materials) and
engine components (titanium aluminides and titanium-based
composites). Emphasis is
placed on microstructural characterization and the relationship between the microstructure
and mechanical
Research

properties

Councils Institute

of specific materials systems being investigated


for Aerospace

at the National

Research.

INTRODUCTION

matrix composites (MMCs) with oriented


continuous fiber reinforcement [l] . Furthermore, a growth in engine performance in
excess of 50% is expected from the introduction of FRPs, WCs,
and ceramic-matrix
composites (CMCs) in engines and their containment structures [2], and low-density
titanium aluminides have the potential to
allow 50% weight reductions in some applications [3].
The most effective way to reduce aircraft
structural weight is to reduce the density of
structural materials. By comparison, increasing ultimate tensile strength, modulus of
elasticity, or damage tolerance properties is
3-5 times less effective, with an increase in
fracture properties being the least effective
option, as explained by Ekvall et al. [4]. This
makes FRPs particularly attractive for aircraft
applications, because of the good combination of low density, high stiffness, and
reasonably high strength that characterizes
this class of materials. Over the last three
decades, FRPs have been used in increasing
quantities in aircraft structures, substituting

Improvements in the performance of aircraft


have been closely linked to progress in materials. Breakthroughs such as those associated with the development of lightweight
precipitationhardenable
aluminum alloys,
heat-treatable titanium alloys and, more recently, fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composites have made it possible to reduce aircraft structural weight significantly. This has
enabled aircraft to fly farther and faster and
has made commercial flying more economical by allow-ing larger aircraft and by lowering fuel consumption. The emergence of
still lighter, stiffer, stronger, less fatiguesensitive,
more damage-tolerant,
and/or
more heat-resistant materials is expected to
continue to play a significant role in the development of next-generation aircraft, both
in terms of airframe and engine developments. For instance, weight reductions of
40-60% have been forecast for early-Zlstcentury aircraft based on anticipated use of
high-strength
titanium alloys and metal-

Presented at the International Metallographic Society Symposium on Microstructural


weight Materials for Transportation, Montreal, July 24-2.5, 1994.

Characterization

of Light-

41
MATERIALS CHARACTERIZATION 35:41-67 (1995)
0 Elsevier Sciene Inc., 1995
655 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10010

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J-l? lmmarigeon et al.

42
Table 1.

Selection of Materials (Aluminum Alloys and Epoxy Composites) for the Canadair
Global Express, Compared with the Canadair CL600 Challengera

Component

Fuselage skin
Lower wing cover
Upper wing cover
Leading edge
Vertical stabilizer
Horizontal stabilizer
Fairings

Global Express
(1994)

CL600
Challenger (1977)

C188-13
2024-T351 (bus)
7150-T7751 (bus)
6013-T6
2024-T3
TGE camp.
TGE camp.

2024-T3
7475-T7351 (ims)
7050-T7651 (ims)
2024-T3
All metal
All metal
Kevlar epoxy camp.

nPrivatecommunication, K. C. Overbuy, Bombardier Inc., Canadair, 1994.


bus = built-up structure; ims = integrally milled skins; and TGE camp. = toughened graphite epoxy composite.

for metals in many secondary structures and,


in a few isolated cases, as material for primary structures [5].
The first aircraft designed in Canada to
use a polymeric composite for primary structure will be the new long-range business jet
named Global Express. This aircraft is to be
built by Bombardier Inc., Canadair, and will
make extensive use of toughened graphite
epoxy (TGE) which will be used for the horizontal stabilizer, the rudder, elevator ailerons,
flaps, fairings, and so on. The Global Express
will contain considerably more epoxy composite than the CL600 Challenger business
jet which was designed by Canadair in the
mid-1970s. It is interesting to compare structural materials in the CL600 with those expected to be used in the Global Express
(K. C. Overbury, Bombardier Inc., Canada&
Private Communication,
1994). As can be
seen in Table 1, the fuselage skin and wing
covers for the Global Express will still utilize
aluminum alloys; a notable change in the
Global Express is the proposal to use the
new 2000 series aluminum alloy C188T3 for
the fuselage skin. This new alloy developed
by Alcoa takes advantage of proprietary processing to provide greatly improved fracture
toughness and fatigue crack growth rates
over the incumbent 2024-T3 without loss of
strength or corrosion resistance. Most of the
other aluminum alloys being specified for
the Global Express are traditional alloys in
traditional temper conditions.
The alloy
6013-T6 is used in the bare polished condition on the wing leading edges because it
has very good corrosion resistance.

Recently, a number of new metallic products and materials-processing


technologies
have also been developed which allow metallic structures to be highly competitive [6].
The new lighter metallic materials include
low-density aluminum alloys, some capable
of service temperatures
well beyond the
capabilities
of polymer-based
materials,
aluminum-matrix composites (AMCs), and
hybrid polymer-metal
composites for airframes, as well as titanium aluminides and
titanium-based
metal-matrix
composites
(TMCs) for engine applications. New advanced synthesis and processing technologies [7] are also being developed to produce these new high-performance alloys and
composites in a cost-effective manner. The
techniques include advanced melting practices, mechanical alloying, powder metallurgy processing, spray forming, and vapor
deposition, among others.
This article reviews the state of the art in
lightweight metallic materials for aircraft applications. It also highlights some of the ongoing developments in materials and process technologies that are being pursued in
Canada by the National Research Councils
(NRC) Institute for Aerospace Research in
collaboration with others, for both airframe
and engine applications.

ALUMINUM

ALLOYS

Aluminum alloys have been the most widely


used structural materials in aircraft for several decades. Three types of alloys make up

Aircraft Applications

the bulk of th.e aluminum found in modern


aircraft. They are the 2000 series (Al-CuMg), the 6000 series (Al-Si-Mg), and the
7000 series alloys (Al-Zn-Mg-Cu).
All are
precipitation-hardenable
alloys that rely on
the precipitation of fine coherent precipitates
and dispersoids for strengthening, the morphology and distribution of which dictate
mechanical properties and environmental
response of the materials. Their microstructure is controlled by heat treatment and they
can be produced in a variety of microstructural conditicons, or temper, which allows
specific design requirements to be met.
New alloys and engineered materials are
emerging that have the potential to replace
the conventional 2000,6000, and 7000 ingot
metallurgy products. They are the lowdensity aluminum-lithium alloys, the powdermetallurgy-processed
7000 series alloys, the
aluminum-based MMCs, and metal-polymer
hybrid composites. Details on the properties,
metallurgical. characteristics,
and the use,
or potential use, of both the conventional
materials and the new products are provided below.
CONVENTIONAL
2000, 6000, AND
7000 SERIES ALLOYS
The most widely used alloy of the 2000 series
is 2024-X$ which takes advantage of cold
working followed by natural aging. The alloy
has moderate yield strength but good damage tolerance (good resistance to fatigue
crack growth and good fracture toughness).
In the form of thick sheet, however, it is susceptible to exfoliation corrosion. The alloy
is used mos,tly for fuselage skins, usually
clad with a layer of pure aluminum for corrosion protection, and is found in most of
the commercial and military transport aircraft built over the past 30 years. Strength
is derived from the formation of a highvolume fraction of Guinier-Preston
(GP)
zones and coherent 0 (CuMgAlz) precipitate phase in the grain interiors, as well as
by the presence of Al-Cu-Mn dispersoids.
When alloyed with iron and nickel, the 2000
series alloys have reasonably high creep
strength, as typified by alloy 2618 used in
the Concorde, the Anglo-French supersonic
aircraft. Addition of copper provides good

43

combinations
of strength and ductility as
well as good weldability, as typified by alloy
2219 (used for NASAs space shuttle external
fuel tank and components of the shuttle remote manipulator system, Canadarm) .
The 6000 series alloys have much better
corrosion resistance than the 2000 series
alloys. The latest alloy of the 6000 series is
6013, which in the T6 temper offers a 12%
strength advantage over alclad 2024-T3, with
comparable toughness
and resistance to
fatigue crack growth and with the added advantage that it can be used bare, that is, without cladding. The 6000 series alloys also have
excellent fabricability. However, they are not
as widely used by the aircraft industries as
the other alloys because they do not compete in terms of overall balance of properties.
The 7000 series alloys, of which 7075 has
been the most widely used, have the highest strengths by far. The alloys are produced
as either sheet, plate, forgings, or extrusions.
They are used for fuselage skins, stringers,
and bulkheads, as well as for wing skins,
panels, and covers. Their strength is derived
from the precipitation of n phase (coherent
MgZn2) in the grain interiors and n phase
(noncoherent
MgZnz) along the grain
boundaries. In the conventional peak age
(high strength) condition (T6), the thick
plates, forgings, and extrusions of the 7000
series alloys are highly susceptible to stress
corrosion cracking (SCC) [8], particularly
when stressed through the thickness,
a
shortcoming which has been well documented for 7075-T6 [9]. Many theories have
been developed to explain the susceptibility
to SCC [lo]. Many of these regard hydrogen
embrittlement to be an important factor and
grain boundary precipitate size may also be
important.
Considerable efforts have been expended
over the years - and are still going on-to address the problem of SCC in 7000 series
alloys. These efforts first led to the development of the overaged T73 temper for alloy
7075. With the T73 temper, the threshold
stress for SCC of 7075 is increased by a factor
of 6. The penalty is a 15% loss in yield
strength [S, lo] relative to the T6 condition.
Intermediate tempers (T74 and T76) have
been developed to provide trade-offs in
strength and SCC resistance between the

J-P. lmmarigeon

44

et al.

Table 2. Effects of Impurity Content on. the Typical Mechanical Properties


of Alloy 7049 Extrusions (After Petrak [20])
Alloy and
temper

Si

Fe

max.

max.

max.

MTl

7049-T73511

0.25

0.35

0.20

504

552

11.6

26.2

7149-T73511

0.15

0.20

0.20

520

568

13.3

32.6

7249-T73511

0.10

0.12

0.10

529

579

13.3

37.2

% El

YS = yield strength; UTS = ultimate tensile strength; El = elongation; Kt, = plane strain fracture toughness; and L = longitudinal.

T6 and T73 conditions. At about the same


time, a technique known as retrogression
and reaging (RRA) was also developed for
reducing susceptibility to SCC in 7000 series
alloys while maintaining the high strength
of the T6 condition. The technique involves
manipulation of grain boundary precipitate
size in material initially in the T6 condition
by multistage heat treatment. It was first
applied to alloy 7075 by Cina [ll, 121 and
has been extensively studied at the NRC
from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s [13-191.
Today, there is renewed interest in the use
of RRA heat treatments to achieve corrosionresistant tempers and particularly in treatments that could be applied retroactively to
fully manufactured and service-exposed
parts. More on this subject is provided in
a separate section.
Demands for higher strength, coupled
with good fracture toughness and SCC resistance, led to the development of several
new 7075 derivative alloys (7175, forgings;
7475, mill products) and other alloys (7049,
7050). This progress resulted largely from
tighter control over impurity levels but also
from improvements in thermomechanical
and heat-treatment practices such as T74,
T76, and T77 tempers. Table 2 shows how
reductions in the levels of silicon, iron, and
manganese lead to significant gains in yield
strength, tensile strength, and fracture
toughness for alloy 7049-T7351 which, in
effect, translates to chemical limits applied
to alloys 7049,7149, and 7249 (D. Richardson,
Lockheed Georgia, Private Communication,
1993). This information is derived from work
by Petrak [20].

NEW

7000 SERIES ALLOYS

More recently, the drive for still higherstrength alloys without undue loss in SCC
resistance or fracture toughness has led to
further alloy developments at Alcoa (7150,
7055) with a new patented temper [21-231
registered as T77 by the Aluminum Association. Not much is said in the open literature
about the proprietary process used to produce this temper for the new high-strength
alloys. From the patent literature, the process is known to be a three-step aging treatment which may involve combinations of
high and low aging temperatures, not unlike
those associated with RRA processing, and
possibly an intermediate mechanical working step. Table 3 compares the mechanical
properties of the two new alloys in the T77
condition with the properties of 7075-T6. In
the patented T77 temper, alloy 7055 offers

Table 3. Effect of Heat Treatment on the


Typical Mechanical Properties
of 7000 Series Aluminum
Alloys

0.2%
Alloy and
temper

YS CL)
(MPa)

UTS (L)
CMPa)

% El

Krc CL-T)
(MPaJm)

7075-T6

475

555

11

25

7075-T73

451

510

13

30

7050-T76

503

541

14

7150-T77

553

585

11

7055-T77
7055-T76
7055-T74

592
537
467

603
569
523

11
13
17

22
32
40

Aircraft Ap,vlicr;rtions

in forgings the highest strength of any commercially available 7000 series alloys, with
excellent combinations of SCC and fracture
toughness capabilities [24]. The alloy is also
available in the T74 and T76 tempers. The
T76 temper -provides SCC resistance and
fracture toughness comparable to 7175-T74
with at least !5% higher strength. In the T74
temper, the fracture toughness of the alloy
is equivalent to that of 7050-T74 with a
strength advantage of at least 6%. Finally,
the data on fatigue properties obtained so
far by Alcoa indicate that alloy 7055 in all
three tempers will be at least at par with
earlier high-strength 7000 series alloys [24].
The new 7000 series alloys are being considered for new and future generation aircraft as well as for the replacement of 7075-T6
components in existing aircraft. McDonnell
Douglas has started using 7150-T77 plate for
the upper wing skins and 7150-T77 extrusions for the upper stringers of the C-17
transport aircraft. Boeing is planning to use
7055-T77 for the upper wing skins and other
components of the Boeing 777. Other potential aircraft applications for the high-strength
7055-T77 alloy include wing spars, web ribs,
aircraft wheels, and landing-gear links [24].
PROCESSING OF 7000 SERIES ALLOY
COMPONENTS
FOR IMPROVED STRESS
CORROSION
RESISTANCE

With the aging of commercial and military


aircraft fleets, the susceptibility to SCC of
the widely used aluminum alloy 7075-T6 has
become a growing concern to users, manufacturers, and regulatory bodies because
there is still a large inventory of equipment
in service containing this alloy. Experience
has shown that aircraft components made
from 7075-T6,tend to corrode rapidly, particularly in aiXri3ft operating in marine environments. Excessively corroded parts must be
replaced for obvious safety reasons and the
replacement costs are high.
A numbe:r of options exist for replacing
SCC-prone aircraft components to extend
component lives and minimize operating
costs [25]. When stress levels permit, the
lower strength but significantly higher

45

corrosion-resistant 7075-T73 can be substituted for 7lY75-T6.Alternatively, an alloy having better corrosion resistance and mechanical properties similar to or better than
7CY75-T6,
for instance, 7050-T74 or 7050-T7651,
can be substituted for 7075-T6. Both of these
options have been considered, and in some
cases already implemented, by Lockheed,
for instance, for the CC-130 Hercules transport aircraft (T. Ginter, Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company, Private Communication, 1992). A third and possibly more
cost-effective approach might be to subject
7075-T6 components to ERA. This treatment
could be applied to new parts from the existing stock of replacement parts or, as a refurbishment procedure, to components that
have not yet corroded badly enough to warrant replacement and are worth salvaging.
The RRA treatment was first described by
Cina [ll, 121 as a process applicable to 7075
in the T6 condition to achieve stress corrosion resistance equivalent to the T73 temper
while maintaining high strength characteristic of the T6 condition. The Cina process
involves short time exposures to high temperature, typically l-100 s in the range from
200 to 280C (the retrogression) followed by
reaging using the original T6 aging treatment (16-24 h at 120C). During retrogression, the hardness or yield strength falls to
a minimum before increasing to a secondary
peak, while continued treatment causes a
further decrease in strength, as shown schematically in Fig. 1. At the same time, stress
corrosion resistance increases as revealed by

FIG. 1. Schematic of the retrogression and reaging process showing the effect of retrogression on yield strength
or hardness [13].

J-l? lmmarigeon et al.

46

electrical conductivity measurements


(expressed as a percentage of the International
Annealed Copper Standard [% IACS] [25])
and by SCC tests using bolt-loaded doublecantilever beam specimens [ 131. According
to Cina, reaging from the initial minimum,
that is, at the end of stage I (point A, Fig. l),
restores strength and hardness in excess of
the original T6 condition (point B, Fig. 1).
Also during reaging, the conductivity and
the stress corrosion resistance continue to
increase toward T73 values. Since the retrogression times are very short, of the order
of tens of seconds, the originally formulated
Cina process is for all practical purposes
limited to very thin section parts, typically
l- to 6mm thick.
Subsequent work spearheaded by Wallace
and co-workers [ 13-151 demonstrated that
lower temperatures and longer retrogression
times (up to point C, Fig. 1) could be used
to produce more effective combinations of
strength and stress corrosion resistance in
thicker sections. Retrogression times employed were typically several minutes at
220C or up to 2 h at 180C. After reaging,
tensile properties equivalent to 7075-T651
properties (point D, Fig. 1) and SCC growth
rates similar to those for the overaged 7075T73 were achieved for 25mm (lin.) plate. The
work was subsequently extended to 25mm
(lin.)-thick specimens cut from63mm (2.5in.)
7475 plate material. RRA processing gave
tensile strength equivalent to 7475-T6 and
corrosion properties much better than T6
and almost as good as 7475-T7351 [16, 171.
In other work [l&19], it was shown that RRA
processing of 7075 has little effect on fatigue
or corrosion-fatigue
crack growth rates.
However, material in the T6RRA or T7351
tempers appears to be marginally more resistant to fatigue crack growth in the threshold region at low frequencies in corrosive
solutions. This is indicative of good corrosionfatigue resistance. The yield strength, the
electrical conductivity, and the SCC crack
growth rate (CGR) for alloy 7475 extrusions
in various heat-treat conditions are compared in Table 4. Each of the RRA conditions
(3 h at 180C and 5 minutes at 220C) resulted in higher yield stress than the T651

Table 4. Properties of Aluminum Alloy 7475


Extruded Bar in the T651, T7351,
and T6RRA (3 h at 180C and
5 minutes at 220C) Conditions

Temper

0.2%
YS
(MPa)

[17]

Conductivity
(% IACS)

SCC CGR
(10-4mm h-l)

773.7

T651

490.5

33.6

T7351

405.8

42.2

5.0

T6RRA/180-180

498.6

40.9

T6RRA/5-220

505

39.5

18.6

condition. The conductivity provides an indication of corrosion resistance: the higher


the conductivity, the greater the corrosion
resistance [ 171.
The effects of RRA processing on 7O75-T6
microstructure
have been investigated by
transmission electron microscopy [ 14,15,26,
271. Results from these studies indicate that
RRA processing is primarily a coarsening
treatment for the grain boundary precipitates. Retrogression,
through stages I and
II (see Fig. 1), leads to full or partial dissolution of the finer 1 precipitates (MgZnr)
while the size and volume fraction of the
coarser n and r\precipitates increase slightly
[26, 271. At the same time, retrogression induces rapid coarsening of the grain boundary precipitates (mainly q). Reaging from
stage II, or slightly beyond the end of stage
II, leads to precipitation of fme n in the grain
interiors, minor growth of the partially dissolved II, and agglomeration of the grain
boundary precipitates into closely spaced
coarse particles of n [14]. Figure 2 compares
the microstructures
of 7075 plate in the
T6RRA, T651, and T7351 conditions and
shows that the RRA processing produces a
microstructure
comprised of fine matrix
TJ + n precipitates (MgZnr), characteristic
of the T651 temper, with coarse grain boundary precipitates of n representative of the
T7351 temper. These features are believed
to be responsible for the combination of high
strength and SCC resistance of the T6RRA
condition.
It has been suggested that the coarse grain
boundary precipitates, characteristic of the

47

Aircraft Applications

tip. Atomic hydrogen is believed to cause embrittlement


by forming weak hydrogenmetal bonds along the grain boundaries, and
the condensation of hydrogen into molecular gas bubbles would, therefore, reduce
the number of such bonds. Metallographic
evidence of hydrogen gas bubbles attached
to grain boundary precipitates in transmission electron microscopy thin foils of 7075T6RRA has been reported [14, 291.
The beneficial effects of RIG&type treatments on resistance to SCC and exfoliation
of 7000 series alloys have been confirmed
in numerous studies [ll, 12,30-331. As just
noted, the technique is particularly well
suited to the treatment of thin section parts.
In thick section parts, only the surface microstructure would be modified by processing, to a depth of up to 25mm, depending
on geometry. This may be sufficient to confer improved SCC resistance where it is most
needed, that is, close to the surface, while
the bulk of the part would remain in the
high-strength T6 condition.

ALUMINUM-LITHIUM

FIG. 2. Transmksion electron micrographs of 7075 plate


in the (a) T651, I:b) T7351, and (c) T651RRA conditions
[14, 191.

T6RRA and T73 conditions, reduce susceptibility to SCC by acting as trapping sites for
hydrogen [ 141. There is supporting evidence
to show that hydrogen, entering the metal
at the crack tip by hydrolysis, tends to condense at the trapping sites into molecular
gas bubbles [28,29]. This in turn would reduce the concentration of atomic hydrogen
along grain boundaries ahead of the crack

ALLOYS

Among the new aircraft materials, aluminumlithium alloys are particularly attractive because of their weight-saving potential. When
aluminum is alloyed with lithium, for every
1% addition of lithium, there is approximately a 3% reduction in alloy density and
an increase in stiffness of about 6%. The
commercial alloys typified by 2090, 2091,
8090, and 8091 contain from 1.9-2.7% lithium. Therefore, they offer up to about 10%
density advantage over the 2000 and 7000
series alloys. They also have correspondingly
higher stiffness and offer a 25% advantage
in specific stiffness. With aluminum-lithium
alloys, weight saving in aircraft structures
of up to 10% is possible in strength-critical
structures and of up to 18% in stiffnesscritical structures [34]. In addition to being
light and stiff, the alloys are strong, damage
tolerant, and corrosion resistant. However,
their properties are strongly sensitive to processing conditions and, therefore, product
quality is more difficult to control than for
conventional alloys. Other shortcomings in-

J-l? lmmarigeon

48
elude high anisotropy of unrecrystallized
products caused by the strong crystallographic textures developed during processing, low short-transverse properties of thick
plates, lack of thermal stability of some products, limited experience with manufacturing
requirements, and limited amounts of design
data [35]. Because of these limitations, together with the very high cost of material
and the added expense for the recycling of
scrap, the impact of Al-Li alloys on the
aircraft industry has fallen short of initial
expectations.
Aluminum-lithium alloys were introduced
more than 30 years ago by Alcoa as alloy 2020
for use on the RA-5C Vigilante military aircraft. Outside of the U.S.S.R., where several
alloys were developed in the 196Os, the
technology appeared to lay dormant until
the mid-1980s, when Alcoa, Alcan, and
Pechiney introduced alloys 2090, 8091, and
2091, respectively, and Alcan and Pechiney
jointly introduced alloy 8090. During the late

et al.

198Os,a mechanically alloyed powder metallurgy product known as Al-905XL (formerly


IN 9052) was also introduced by IncoMAP
and, more recently, a cast Al-Li-Cu alloy
known as Weldalite 049 (now registered as
alloy 2095) was developed by Martin Marietta
Laboratories [36]. The latter material has excellent weldability, superior to that of the
2000 series alloys, including alloy 2219, and
is a strong contender as fuel tank material
for NASA& space shuttle because of the
materials excellent cryogenic properties.
The 2000 and 8000 series Al-U alloys are
available commercially in a variety of forms
and tempers which can be selected to meet
the specific design requirements of either
high strength (e.g., 2090-TSX, 809%T8), medium strength combined with corrosion resistance and damage tolerance (e.g., 8090l%XXX, 2091-T8X), or high damage tolerance
(e.g., 209%T8XXX) [35]. The commercial
alloys normally have strongly developed
textures resulting in strong anisotropy of

Table 5. Minimum Properties (AMS Standards) of 2090 and 8090 Al-U Alloys Compared to
ConventionalSheet and Plate AluminumAlloys

FO?Yn

Sheet
up to 6.25mm

Alloy

2024-T3
2024-T861
7475-T61

Tensile 0.2%
strength
YS
AMS
number Orientation (MPa) (MPa)

4037
4193
4084

7475-T761

4085

2090-T83

4251

8090-T6

4259

2024-T351
2024-T861
2124-T851
7475-T651

4037
4193
4101

% El

EXCO &CT-L) Density


min. (MPadm) (g/cm3)

L, LT
L, LT
L
LT
L
LT
L
LT
L, LT

441
490
517
517
490
490
517
503
396

290
455
455
441
420
415
483
455
303

15
4
9
9
9
9
4
5
4

NS
NS

NS
NS

NS

66

2.77
2.77
2.80

88

2.80

LT
L,LT
L,LT
L
LT
L
LT
L
LT

441
483
455
530
540
490
490
517
517

290
441
393
475
460
414
414
483
469

12
4
6
10
10
10
9
4
3

NS
NS

NS
NS

2.77
2.77

NS

NS

26.4
33

2.77
2.80

NS

42

2.80

EB

27.5

2.60

NS

EB

2.60

EB
EB

NS

2.53

KICK-T)
Rate

up to12.7mm

4090

7475-T7351 4202
2090-T81

4303
4303

L,

NS = not specified; EXCO = exfoliation corrosion; EB = rating B for the EXCO test.

Aircraft Applications

strength and fracture properties. Strength


and fracture are also strongly influenced by
grain size and structure [37]. Strength is derived from precipitation of 6 (AlsLi), Ti
(Al;?CuLi), S (A12CuMg), 8 (Al#Zu), and
other phases. Volume fraction, distribution,
and morphology of the precipitates depend
on alloy composition and processing conditions (extent of hot and cold working and
heat treatment). The presence of coherent
shearable 6 precipitates is conducive to inhomogeneity of slip resulting in severe strain
localization during deformation. This localized slip planarity strongly influences fracture properties, being beneficial in terms
of resistance to fatigue crack growth rate
(FCGR) but detrimental to toughness [37].
It has also been suggested that toughness
is strongly -influenced by the level of alkali
metal impurities and the occurrence of liquid
metal embrittlement caused by these impurities [38].
Minimum mechanical properties for design purposes, taken from Aerospace Materials Specifications (AMS) standards for
two commercial Al-U alloys 2090-T8 and
8090-T6, are compared to conventional alloys
2024 and 7475 in Table 5, which shows that
strength levels of 2090-T8x sheet and plate
are almost #equivalentto those of 7475-T~xx,
with about a 7% saving in weight. However, 7475-1651 plate has better guaranteed
plane strain fracture toughness (Kt,) than
does 209OT81 plate. Note that, for sheet,
plane stress fracture toughness K, is quoted,
and K, is always greater than Kr,. The two
aluminum.-lithium alloys also exhibit much
higher resistance to the growth of fatigue
cracks when compared to conventional alloys. This is illustrated in Fig. 3, which shows
that their FCGRs in the L-T orientation (i.e.,
in compact tension specimens loaded in the
rolling direction with cracks propagating in
the transverse direction) are 1 order of magnitude lower than the FCGRs of conventional alloys [39]. The crack growth rate data
in Fig. 3 are compensated for material differences in yield strength and work-hardening
coefficient, as well as for differences in the
R ratios used to collect the data. This is done
to separate the effects of texture from those

103-

i
: v
_ 0

102:

2024-T351
221 g-T651

7075-T651
7475-T761
2090-T61
6090-T6771

8
OV

n -

FIG. 3. Fatigue crack growth rates in conventional highstrength aluminum alloys and the aluminum-lithium
alloys 2090-T81 and 8090-T8771 in the L-T orientation
1391.

arising from differences in materials properties and experimental techniques. The


compensated data reveal that the large difference in FCGR is due primarily to texture [39].
Alloy 8090-T8771 possesses a strong (110)
<112> brass-type texture with (110) crystallographic planes lying in the rolling plane
and [112] poles in the rolling direction.
The superior FCGR resistance of Al-Li
alloys can be traced to a tortuous crack path
resulting from their highly planar slip characteristics and the presence of texture. In
alloy 8090-I8771 tested in the L-T orientation,
cracks are found to follow well-defined slip
planes and to meander about the T direction
over a significant fraction of the crack path
[39]. This tortuosity increases the energy required to propagate the crack and increases
crack closure and crack tip shielding. Both
of these factors impede crack growth. It
also results in well-defined slip band facets
on the fracture surface, as revealed by fractography. Metallography of sections taken
through the specimens indicate that the
angle of intersection between the facets de-

J-l? Immarigeon et al.

FIG. 5. Three-dimensional schematic showing the relative orientation of favorable slip planes in a compact
tension specimen in the L-T orientation [39].

FIG. 4. Fatigue crack profiles in a compact tension specimen of L-T orientation: (a) sections parallel to the rolling plane and (b) sections across the thickness of the
plate, normal to the transverse direction (see Fig. 5 for
schematic view) [39].

340 aircraft wing. Alloys 2090-T83 and 2090T62 are used by McDonnell Douglas for
some flooring sections in the C-17 airlifter
craft. The new Boeing 777 aircraft makes
only limited use of Al-U alloys [40]. In contrast, Westland-Agusta, U.K. /Italy is unique
in making extensive use of 8090 forgings and
sheets and 2090 and 2091 sheets for the
EHlOl helicopter. The alloys are also being
tested for a variety of new applications, including lower wing skins and fuselage applications (panels and doors) [35].
NEW ALUMINUM

ALLOYS

pends on the orientation of metallographic


sectioning. For sections parallel to the rolling
plane, the facets are about 109.5 apart,
whereas for sections across the thickness of
the plate, normal to the transverse direction,
the facets are about 60 apart, as shown in
Fig. 4. These observations can be rationalized
in terms of simple crystallographic considerations, from which it can be shown that
the angles of intersection between the (111)
favorable slip planes in sections parallel to
the rolling plane and across the thickness
of the plate, normal to the transverse direction, agree with the measured angles (Fig. 5)

Over the last 10 years, new processing techniques have led to the introduction of new
aluminum alloys with greatly enhanced
properties over conventionally processed ingot metallurgy (IM) products. The techniques include powder metallurgy (P/M)
processing in conjunction with rapid solidification (P/M-RS) or mechanical alloying
(P/M-MA), spray forming, vapor deposition
[7], and XD processing.

[391.
Applications of Al-U alloys are not widespread to date. Alloy 8090-T83 is used in limited quantities by Airbus Industries, for the
D-nose skins of the leading edge of the A330/

Aluminum has a limited ability to alloy with


more than a handful of elements. These elements are those found in the conventional
cast alloys (essentially Mg, Zn, Cu, Si, and
Li) just discussed. RS more than triples that

Powder-Processed

(P/M-RS and P/M-MA)

Materials

51

Aircraft Applications
number, which vastly extends the possibilities for eithler solid solution, precipitation,
or dispersion hardening [41]. Additional
benefits derived from RS are finer grain
sizes and more uniform microstructures.
Mechanical alloying is an alternative to RS
processing for extending solubility limits,
refining microstructure, and producing nonequilibrium phases. The powders obtained
by RS or MA are consolidated into usable
products by extrusion (or hot isosatic pressing) and this may be followed by rolling or
forging, depending on the desired product.
Both P/M-F!S and P/M-MA have been explored as alternative processing routes for
7000 series alloys, as well as to produce
lower-density Al-Li alloys and new alloys
with improved high-temperature
properties [7].
The first-generation wrought P/M alloys
derived from the conventional 7000 series alloys were Alcoas 7090 and 7091 and Kaisers
P/M61 and 64 alloys, which were introduced
in the early 1980s. Alcoa has since developed
a new highI-strength P/M alloy designated
X7093 (formerly CW67) with notably improved
fracture toughness
over early-generation
P/M alloys. As shown in Table 6, X7093-T7E92
die-forging material has excellent strength
and fracture toughness and the alloy has also
been reported to have good fatigue and corrosion properties [42]. Alloy X7093 is available commercially as both extrusions and
forgings and with SCC resistance equivalent
to 7075-T73; and it is being promoted as a
replacement for 7075-T6 die forgings. Detailed information on the properties of this
new material, including standardized properties, is currently being developed.
The lithium content of IM Al-Li alloys is
limited to ;!.7% in commercial alloys. Above
about 3% Li, serious loss in toughness occurs
in wrough.t IM products. By virtue of RS
effects on solid solubility limits, powder processing allows the Li content to be increased
up to 3.6% of Li. The result is reduced density, much better corrosion resistance, and
mechanical properties that compare favorably with conventionally
processed 7075
products [7]. Mechanical alloying adds the
benefits of dispersion
strengthening
by

Table 6. Mechanical Properties of Some New


Aluminum Alloys Including Powder
Metallurgy (P/M) Alloys
Alloy and
temper

Weldalite 049-T8
P/M X7093-T7E92
P/M 5091 (Into)
X8019 (Al-Fe-Ce)

0.2%
YS
UTS
Ref. CMPa) (MPa)

36
42
25
43

692
615
455
393

712
637
595
414

%
KI
El (MPaJm)

5
9
9
NA

NA
47
25
NA

NA = not available

oxides. The surface oxide film present on


the aluminum powder feed stock is broken
up and incorporated into the interior of the
MA powder as a fine dispersion. Corrosion
properties very much superior to those of
7075-T73 material have been reported for experimental MA Al-Li alloys [7]. Into alloy
5091 (Al-Mg-Li) is a non-heat-treatable
mechanically alloyed material containing 1.21.4% of Li, exhibiting a respectable balance
of properties roughly equivalent to 7075-T73
[25]. The properties of this alloy, as well as
those of Weldalite 049 just described, are also
shown in Table 6.
P/M-RS has also been taken advantage of
to produce alloys with good high-temperature
strength and thermal stability. This is
achieved by alloying with transition metals
(e.g., Fe, MO, or V) and rare earth elements
(e.g., Ce). Alloying with these elements is
not possible with conventional IM because
of these elements propensity to form coarse
brittle intermetallic phases during ingot solidification. P/M-RS promotes the formation
of a high-volume fraction of these phases
in a uniformly distributed sub-micron-scale
morphology which remains stable at high
temperatures
and confers excellent hightemperature mechanical properties to the
materials [41]. Two of the most promising
alloy systems that have been developed for
aircraft applications are the Al-Fe-Ce-based
system developed by Alcoa and the Al-Fe-VSi-based system developed by Allied Signal
[43]. Both systems are available in all the conventional product forms: sheet, plate, extrusions, and forgings. In sheet, specific

1-P. lmmarigeon et al.

52
strength is typically equivalent to 2024-T8
up to about 150C. Above this temperature,
however, the two alloy systems provide a significant strength advantage over 2024-T8
(50% at 260C after 100 h exposure) [43].
Plane strain fracture toughness, Kr,, is of
the order of 22MPadm in thick-section extrusions and forgings and FCGR characteristics are similar to those of 7075-T6. Their
resistance to surface corrosion is equivalent
to that of 6061-T6 and their SCC threshold
is of the same order of magnitude as that
of 7050-T7451. Alloy X8019 (Al-8Fe-4Ce) is
the latest of the high-temperature alloys from
Alcoa designed for applications
in and
around engines, both reciprocating and turbines [42]. These high-temperature
aluminum alloys could be used as substitutes for
titanium alloys in moderate-temperature
applications, up to 300C and possibly beyond.

Spray-Formed and Vapor-Deposited Alloys


Spray forming is typified by the Osprey
spray-deposition process. In spray forming,
molten metal is fed through an atomizing
nozzle into a retort filled with inert gas. At
the exit of the nozzle, the molten metal is
atomized by a high-velocity inert gas jet into
a fine spray of metal droplets which is directed onto a collecting surface [44]. The process is amenable to the production of solid
billet shapes for further processing by extru-

sion, hot isostatic pressing, rolling, or forging. It can also be used to produce powders.
Spray forming has been used by Alcan
Cospray Products Division [45] to produce
monolithic alloys for standard compositions (2618,7075, and 8090) and AMCs based
on silicon carbide reinforcement (2014 MMC,
2618 MMC, 8090 MMC, 6061 MMC, 7075
MMC, and 7049 MMC). By virtue of the
rapid solidification rates associated with
splat quenching of the molten droplets, materials of standard compositions are produced with much refined microstructures
and more uniform second-phase
distributions. Their tensile (longitudinal direction)
and fracture toughness (L-T and T-L orientations) properties are accordingly superior
to those of the conventionally
processed
alloys, as shown in Table 7. Note that, for
the Cospray MMC materials, neither the reinforcement nor the volume fraction of reinforcement is identified in the company literature [45]. Spray forming has also been
used to produce Al-Li alloys containing 4.2%
of lithium (alloy UL40), a level which is well
above the limits permitted by conventional
IM techniques.
Recently, a process known as REFORM
(for reactive spray fomzing) has been developed by Perma, a research and development
company in Montreal, for producing alloys
or composites from molten metal and reactive gases. In the REFORM process, a variant of the spray-forming process, atomiza-

Table 7. Tensile and Fracture Toughness Properties of Spray-Deposited Aluminum Alloys


and AMCs [45]
KI, ~MPdnd

0.2% YS

UTS

CMPd

(MPaJ

7049-T6
7049-T6MMC

576
598

614
643

11.3
2.8

69.9
90.1

7075-T651
7075-T651MMC

572
556

617
601

10.5
3.7

71.7
94.9

38.9
-

29.4
-

7075-T7351
7075-T73MMC

458
357

529
458

11.7
6.5

71.8
92.9

45.2
-

29.3
-

8090-T651
8090-T651MMC

512
499

550
547

5.1
3.0

79.2
100.8

46.4
14.1

17.8
-

Material

E
% El

(GPaJ

L-T

T-L

Aircraft Applications

tion takes place in the high-velocity flame


of a p1asm.a torch within which the molten
metal is made to react with a gas to produce
an alloy for spraying. Preliminary work has
shown that it is possible to produce aluminum composites reinforced with a fine dispersion of TiAls by using aluminum powder
and Tic& gas as reaction precursors [46].
Al-TiAls colmposites made by P/M-MA have
been shown by others [47] to exhibit at high
temperatures
very attractive mechanical
properties that are significantly superior to
those of P/M-RS Al-Fe-X high-temperature
alloys.
High-rate electron-beam evaporation is another method for producing bulk materials
with novel microstructures by vapor quenching onto a temperature-controlled
collector.
The concept of bulk vapor deposition has
been used to produce new high-temperature
alloys comaining normally insoluble elements, such as Fe or Cr. Alloy RAE 72
(Al-7.5Cr-3_.2Fe) is one such material which
exhibits exceptional specific strength, higher
than that of Ti-6Al-4V, at temperatures up
to 300C. ljtrength is derived from solution
strengthening by chromium, precipitation
hardening
by fine (3-5nm)
particles of
Fe3A1, and an ultrafme grain size arising
from rapid deposition from the vapor onto
the collector [48].

XD-Processed Materials
XD processsing is a patented technology developed by Martin Marietta Laboratories for
the production of particle reinforced materials. The process relies on the intrinsic
thermodynamic stability in metals of ceramic
particles, and their known ability to increase
strength and stiffness when present in sufficiently small size (<lum), high-volume fraction (>20%), and homogeneous distribution
[49]. With this technology, it is possible to
produce composites composed of a wide
variety of matrix materials (e.g., Al, Cu, Ni,
Ti, and intermetallics)
and second-phase
particles (e.g., borides, carbides, or nitrides).
Because the dispersoids are produced in
situ, the metal-particle
interface is clean,
which is beneficial to toughness. XD process-

53

ing is an inexpensive and generic technology which has been used to produce a variety of particulate-reinforced
metal systems,
including
aluminum-based
metal-matrix
composites (AMCs) as discussed next.

Aluminum-Based Metal-Matrix

Composites

A number of AMCs have been recently developed for aerospace applications and include products reinforced by discrete ceramic
particles or whiskers, known as DRA composites
(for discontinuously
reinforced
aluminum) as well as products reinforced
by continuous ceramic fibers (known as FRA
for fiber-reinforced
aluminum) [50]. The
fabrication methods for DRA and FRA composites are varied. Alcoa, for instance, has
recently introduced a series of DRA composites reinforced by low-cost silicon carbide
(Sic) particles, produced by P/M techniques
[51]. Some specific Alcoa DRA products are
X208O/SiC/15p (where the powder alloy
X2080 is reinforced with 15 vol.% silicon
carbide particulate), X7093/SiC/15p, 61131
SiC/15p, 6113/SiC/2Op, and X80191SiC112.5p.
The latter has excellent high-temperature
properties.
Advanced Composite Materials Corporation (ACMC) has also been producing a
class of powder-processed DRA composites
known as SXA@ composites. These composites are available in all the common product
forms for alloys 2009, 6061, 6013, and 7475
reinforced with up to 30 vol.% of Sic whiskers or up to 55 vol.% of Sic particulate [52].
Extruded SXA 2009/SiC/15w-T8 is being field
tested on C-141 aircraft as a main landinggear actuator strut material to improve fatigue life and corrosion resistance over the
current material, 7075-T6 [53]. Alloy 2009 is
registered with the Aluminum Association
specifically for use in composites [51]. At
1992 prices, 2009 composite sheet material
has been said to be more cost effective than
polymer-based
composites
for stiffnesscritical applications [53].
DRA composites have also been produced
by techniques
such as stir casting [54],
squeeze casting [55], spray forming [44,56,
571, and XD processing [49]. A great attrac-

54

tion of the latter process is that XD composites, once engineered,


can be recast, extruded, or forged as dictated by component
requirements.
This makes the approach
highly cost effective. Similarly, as regards
the fabrication of FRA composites, several
processing routes have been demonstrated.
FRA composites can be produced by investment casting or diffusion bonding using
fiber prepregs in the form of green tapes,
plasma-sprayed aluminum tapes, or woven
fabric [50]. The AVCO hot-molding technique is one approach which is best described by drawing a parallel with autoclave
processing of graphite epoxy laminates. Aluminum prepregs consisting of a single
layer of fibers that have been plasma sprayed
with aluminum are staked against a ceramic
tool of the desired shape, in the desired
orientation sequence. Laminate consolidation is achieved by vacuum bagging using
a metallic vacuum bag. The technique has
been used by AVCO to produce Zee stiffeners for aircraft panels [50].
The properties of DRA and FRA composites are strongly influenced by the matrix
characteristics and the matrix alloy can be
selected to meet specific application needs.
The 2000 series alloys offer strength and
damage tolerance, the 7000 series alloys offer
higher strength potential, and the 6000 series
alloys are conducive to good corrosion resistance and improved machinability, whereas
the Al-Fe-X (8XxX) alloys provide opportunities for high-temperature
performance
[58]. Meanwhile, a matrix based on Al-Li
provides a unique combination of high stiffness and low density. Composite properties
are also strongly influenced by the type of
reinforcing medium. Fibers provide the highest stiffness, strength, and toughness combination . Particulate reinforcement is often
used for wear-resistance
applications and
offers high stiffness but only low strength
and low toughness, whereas whisker reinforcement offers high stiffness, medium
strength, and low toughness [50]. Several
reinforcing mediums have been used for
AMCs, including alumina, carbon, and
Sialon fibers, but Sic is the most common
reinforcing medium.

J-l? lmmarigeon et al.

200

400

600

BOO

loo0

1200

1402

lea0

FIG. 6. Effect of volume fraction and type of reinforcement on the mechanical properties of 6061 composite
material [59].

The extent by which reinforcement with


Sic influences properties of 6061 aluminum
alloy is shown in Fig. 6 as a function of the
nature and volume fraction of the reinforcement medium (particulate, whisker, and
fiber reinforcement) [59]. The trends are typical of AMCs. Stiffness and tensile strength
are greatly increased and toughness is improved but transverse properties can be low
in FRAs because these properties are dominated by matrix properties and are similar
to those of the unreinforced alloy. Crossplying may be applied to achieve multiaxial
reinforcement
for more in plane isotropy
or properties
tailored to special design
requirements.
Work is under way at Ceramics Kingston
Ceramiques Inc. (CKCI) of Napanee, Ontario, to optimize a low-cost Sic whisker
production technique for composites application. Whiskers produced with this proprietary technique have been studied by metallography [60, 611. The whiskers have an
aspect ratio as large as 50 and transmission
electron microscopy evaluation reveals they
are l3 Sic single crystals with a large number
of twinning faults in the (111) plane, which is
a characteristic of this type of product (Fig. 7).
Tests performed on 208O/SiC/lO-12, composites containing the CKCI whiskers have
demonstrated the potential of these whiskers
as a reinforcement agent for aluminum alloys.
The test material for this exploratory work

55

Aircraft Applications
800
$

,120
110

600

g
tat

100

E
3L

80

400

f
Y

g
f
v)
P
Z!

200

Yield (pwtlcutate)
n

>
0

0
Whisker

5
or

10

80

70

3
4

B
15

20

25

60

particulate content (volume %)

FIG. 8. Tensile

properties
of aluminum
alloy
208O/SiClxxw-T4 and 208O/SiC/xxp-T6 composites as a
function of whisker or particulate content [62]. UTS
= ultimate tensile strength and E = modulus of elasticity.

FIG.
7. Transmission
con carbide whisker

electron micrograph of a siliproduced by CKCI [61].

was obtained by a proprietary process involving blending of the whiskers and alloy
powder in an aqueous solution and slip casting the mixture into billet form, followed by
drying, hot pressing, and extrusion to rod
shapes [62]. Tensile tests were performed
in air at room temperature and the results
revealed quite attractive mechanical properties for the composites with ultimate tensile
strength up to 690MPa, yield strength up
to 525MIa, 4.5% elongation, and with a
modulus increase over the base alloy of 25%
to about 1100GPa. Figure 8 shows that the
tensile properties of the CKCI composites
(solid symbols) compare favorably with
those of commercial AMCs (open symbols),
as discuss,ed elsewhere [62].
HYBRID

COMPOSITES

Hybrid composites are FRP-metal sandwich


laminates consisting of alternating layers of
high-strength
aluminum alloys and fiberreinforced. epoxy adhesive.
This hybrid
structural material, illustrated schematically
in Fig. 9, was developed in the late 1970s at

Delft University in the Netherlands


and
Fokker Aircraft and was later commercialized
in collaboration with Alcoa and Akzo [63].
Two categories of hybrid composites are
available commercially today, the ARALL@
and GLARE@ laminates, which differ in the
type of fiber used for reinforcement
[64].
ARALL laminates (for aramid reinforced aluminum Iaminate) use 50% fiber volume of
adhesive prepreg of high-modulus aramid
fibers. GLARE laminates (for glass reinforcement) are unidirectionally or biaxially reinforced with 60% fiber volume of highstrength glass fibers. GLARE laminates are
a more recent development, complementing
the original ARALL product through provision of higher compression strength.
Both ARALL and GLARE laminates come
in different configurations ranging from two
layers of aluminum with one FRP layer in
between, to five layers of aluminum with
four interspace FRP layers. In GLARE laminates, the glass fibers can be layed up in a
cross-ply configuration. Also, both ARALL
and GLARE laminates can be fabricated with
different aluminum alloys. This allows laminate properties to be closely tailored to component design requirements. The laminates
are produced by curing in a heated platen
press. After curing, ARALL laminates can
be stretched to eliminate undesirable residual stresses. Stretching greatly increases resistance to fatigue crack growth [64].

J-l? lmmarigeon et al.

FIG. 9. Schematic representation

of a 312 FRP-metal

FRP-metal laminates have the ability to


impede and self-arrest fatigue crack growth,
which makes the materials highly damage
tolerant. As cracks develop in the aluminum
face sheets, fiber bridging across a propagating crack causes the unbroken fibers to
carry increasing portions of the load, which
may decrease the stress intensity at the crack
tip to the point where the cracks cease to
grow. This makes the material particularly
well suited to applications requiring good
fatigue resistance. ARALL laminates are best
suited to tension-dominated fatigue applications. The GLARE laminates, because of
their higher compression strength, can also
be used for tension-compression applications. High strength and high stiffness are
other attractive attributes of FRP-metal laminates. The specific strength and specific
stiffness of four different types of ARALL
laminates and other aircraft materials, including 2024-T3, 7075-T6, Al-Li alloy 2090,
and carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP)
are compared in Fig. 10. The FRP-metal laminates properties fall well above those for the
alloys but below those for the CFRPs. The
spread in ARALL properties arises from
differences in the properties of alloys used
in the different types of ARALL laminates.
ARALL 1, 2, 3, and 4 are based on alloys
7475-T6, 2024-T3, 7475-T76, and 2024-T& respectively. The stronger GLARE laminates
also based on 7475-T6or 2024T3 offer weight
savings that are competitive with CFRP composites but at lower production cost than for
CFRPs [64].
ARALL was introduced to service in 1988

sandwich laminate [64].

by the Douglas Aircraft Company for the aft


cargo door of the C-17 airlifter. ARALL laminates have since been test flown in the form
of underwing inspection hatches on a Fokker
50, as a laminate-skinned inboard flap on
the DeHavilland Dash .8 aircraft, and as
retrofit materials for C-130 wing-flap lower
skins and T-38 dorsal fuselage panels. Areas
where the fiber laminates can be used are
fatigue-critical and fracture-critical locations
where static strength, stiffness, fatigue, damage tolerance, and fracture toughness are required, such as lower wing skins and fuselage skins. GLARE laminates are particularly
well suited for frrewall applications because
of a high burn-through resistance.

TITANIUM

ALLOYS

Titanium-based alloys are another group of


lightweight materials which can be used to

0
2
5peclfic

Modulus

(E I p, 106 m)

FIG. 10. Comparison of the specific strength and specific


stiffness of ARRAL laminates and other lightweight aircraft materials [64].

Aircraft Applications
increase the strength-to-weight ratio in structures and provide heat resistance with
weight savings in engines. Major thrusts in
titanium alloy developments have been to
increase thlestrength and temperature capabilities of the alloys so that they could compete with the much heavier steels in airframe
structures and much heavier superalloys in
engines. Having a lower density and modulus than steel, titanium alloys enable weight
savings of up to 70% and potential volume
savings of 50% [65]. Therefore, it is not surprising that titanium usage in commercial
aircraft ha:s increased dramatically, from less
than 1% of total weight in the Boeing 707
of the mid-1950s to roughly 10% of total
weight in the new Boeing 777 [66, 671. The
titanium content of McDonnell Douglass
commercial and military aircraft, including
the C-17 airlifter and the MD-11, averages
about 9%, which compares with a figure of
70% for aluminum [67]. In some military aircraft, titanium usage has reached considerably higher levels, including a stand-alone
95 wt.% in the recently retired SR-71 Blackbird spy plane [65]. The SR-71, which was
developed in the 196Os, was made almost
entirely from titanium. Meanwhile, the temperature capabilities of basic titanium alloys
have also been increased significantly, from
around 400C in the early 1960s [68] to about
62OC today [69], allowing significant improvements in engine thrust-to-weight ratios.
Emerging low-density titanium aluminides
are promising even greater opportunities for
growth in engine performance.
BASIC ALLOYS

Three classes of titanium alloys are used in


aircraft: t.he near-alpha alloys (e.g., Ti-6242
and IMI-834), the alpha-beta alloys (e.g., Ti6-4 and Ti-6-22-22S), and the beta alloys (e.g.,
Ti-10-2-3 and Timetal21S). Here, alpha and
beta refer to the low-temperature hexagonalclose-packed and high-temperature bodycentered-cubic phases of titanium, which are
present in titanium alloys in proportions and
morphologies that depend on alloy composition and heat treatment. Control of
the alpha-to-beta proportions is obtained
through additions of alloying elements that

FIG. 11. Typical microstructures in near-alpha Ti-6242S


alloy: (a) fme-grained duplex alpha-beta worked and
heat treated, and (b) coarse-grained lamellar beta transformed.

preferentially stabilize either one or the other


of the two phases. Meanwhile, phase morphology (and to some extent volume fraction) is controlled through heat treatment
by phase transformation and precipitation
reactions. Most structural alloys are twophase materials which can be produced in
a variety of microstructural conditions. Because properties are strongly influenced by
microstructure, a broad range of properties
can be achieved by heat treatment.
Near-alpha and alpha-beta alloys can be
produced in two basic microstructural conditions: a beta-transformed Widmanstatten
microstructure containing lenticular alpha
in a beta matrix, obtained by rapid cooling
from above the beta transus, and a duplex
microstructure consisting of equiaxed alpha
and transformed beta grains obtained by
alpha-beta working and heat treatment (Fig.
11). The beta-transformed microstructure
provides a good combination of creep
strength, fracture toughness, and FCGR resistance whereas the equiaxed duplex micro-

J-l? lmmarigeon

58

structure provides good tensile ductility and


low cycle fatigue (LCF) resistance. To achieve
a good balance between creep strength and
LCF resistance, an alpha-beta-worked alloy
can be heat treated just below the beta
transus. This maximizes the amount of betatransformed material for good creep strength,
while a sufficiently fine duplex grain size is
retained for good LCF properties [68].
Near-alpha and alpha-beta alloys have
been developed for engine applications. Of
the alpha-beta alloys, Ti-6-4 is by far the most
widely used, accounting for almost half of
all titanium used in aircraft [67]. They are
used for rotating and static components,
mostly as fan blade and compressor disc,
blade, and vane material, but also for compressor cases and in temperature-sensitive
areas of airframes close to engines. Engines
contain a significant amount of Ti-6-4 as well
as the stronger and more creep-resistant
near-alpha Ti-6242 and Ti-6242s. The latter
is a silicon-modified version of Ti-6242 with
a 30C advantage in operating temperature
limit over the base Ti-6242 alloy. Silicon in-

creases the creep resistance of near-alpha


and alpha-beta alloys [70] and is now added
to most of the modern alloys, including the
state-of-the-art IMI-834 (IMI Ltd., U.K.) and
Ti-1100 (or Tin-ret1100, Timet, U.S.A.). Some
of the physical and mechanical properties of
IMI-834 and Ti-1100 are compared in Table 8
[71] with properties of the older alloys Ti-6-4
and Ti-6242. The table also provides the temperature capabilities of each of the alloys,
from which it can be seen that IMI-834 and
Ti-1100 offer a 300C advantage over the old
standby alloy Ti-6-4. Thus, the temperature
capability of titanium alloys has improved
considerably over the 30-year time span separating introduction of Ti-6-4 in the mid1950s from the introduction of IMI-834 and
Ti-1100 in the middle to late 1980s. Emerging titanium aluminides may provide as significant a gain in temperature capability over
these near-alpha alloys, as discussed next.
Beta alloys are, for the most part, metastable alloys which precipitate a second
phase, usually alpha, when aged at high
temperatures. Thus, beta alloys are age hardenable. They are normally used in the

et al.

Table 8. Typical Properties of Some


Titanium Alloys Used in Engines
(After Seagle and Wood [71])
0.2%
UTS
YS
(GPa) (MPa) (MPa)
E

A&is

&m3)

Creep

El K,.x,

C)

Ti-64

4.43

110

965

1035

300

Ti-6242

4.54

120

990

1010

450

Ti-1100

4.52

114

895

1000

10

600

&II-834

4.55

117

905

1035

10

600

Alpha 2

4.84

125

620

725

730

Gamma

4.0

169

480

585

900

solution-treated and peak-aged condition


but can also be used in the overaged condition for increased stability at high temperatures [65]. Some of the beta alloys are subject to strain-induced transformation to an
orthorhombic martensite during quenching.
Subtransus solutioning can be used to avoid
the undesirable martensite and retain as
much single-phase beta as possible for
further aging [66].
The beta alloys have higher strength but
are less creep resistant than the near-alpha
and alpha-beta alloys. Beta alloys also provide the best combination of strength and
toughness and have better cold formability
than the other titanium alloys. Another plus
is their excellent forgeability. On the minus
side, they are 10% heavier than alpha-beta
alloys because of the large amount of heavy
elements required to stabilize the beta phase.
Yet, they offer the highest strength-to-weight
ratio of all titanium alloys. These characteristics make the beta alloys most suitable for
airframe applications. However, they are also
used for intermediate-temperature applications in engine containment structures and
ducting. Properties of some of the beta alloys
developed for airframe applications are compared in Table 9 with properties of the highperformance alpha-beta Ti-6-22-22S, an alloy
that provides significant improvements in
damage tolerance with respect to strength
relative to Ti-6-4.
As compared to the near-alpha and alphabeta alloys, the beta alloys have not been
used to any great extent by the aerospace

Aircraft Applications

59

Table 9. Typical Properties of Some Titanium Alloys Used in Airframes


(After Seagle and Wood [71])
0.2% YS

Alloy type

Alloys

Alpha-beta
Alpha-beta
P-rich a-B
Beta
Beta
Beta

Ti-6-4
Ti-6-22-22s
Ti-17
Ti-10-2-3
Ti-15-3
Timetal21S

&3)

4.43
4.57
4.65
4.65
4.76
4.93

industry. Their high cost has been a deterrent, as has been the cost of qualifying the
materials [66]. Beside some military applications (Lockeeds SR-71, Rockwells B-1B
bomber, and McDonnell Douglas C-U), beta
alloys have been used by Fairchild for engine access doors on the Fairchild-Saab FS340 commuter aircraft (Ti-15-3) and by General Electric Aircraft Engine for compressor
discs (Ti-17, strictly speaking a beta-rich
alpha-beta alloy). The beta alloys will be used
extensively in the new Boeing 777, including
alloy Ti-U-2-3 for the large forgings of the
aircraft main landing-gear structure, an application traditionally assigned to high-strength
steels in earlier-generation aircraft. Alloy Ti10-2-3, when properly processed, offers the
best combination of strength, toughness,
and resistance to high cycle fatigue of any
titanium alloy [66]. It is interesting to note
that the Eioeing 777 will be the first aircraft
since the SR-71 in which Ti-6-4 will not be
the dominant titanium alloy [65]. Other beta
alloy applications on the Boeing 777 aircraft
will include ducts (rolled Ti-15-3), engine
nacelle components (rolled Timetal21S), and
cargo-handling components (cast Ti-15-3).
Alloy Ti-10-2-3 is also being used by the helicopter industry for rotor components. New
beta alloys, including low-cost Timetal@LCB
and Beta CEZ (a beta-rich alpha-beta alloy),
could provide further opportunities for
weight reductions in structures and are being
appraised by designers. The basic titanium
alloys are available in all product forms and
can be produced by casting or as wrought
IM products. They can also be produced by
P/M techniques either via the low-cost

CGPaJ

110
121
116
107
107
116

UTS

(MPa)

(MPa)

965
1000
1125
1070
1070
1170

1035
1100
1205
1170
1135
1240

% El
8
10
10
8
10
6

KZC

(MPah)

42.9
82
50-80
-

blended elemental approach or the prealloyed powder approach [68].


TITANIUM ALUMINIDES
When mixed in the right proportions, alu-

minum and titanium form several ordered


intermetallic compounds, two of which are
of particular engineering relevance to applications in aero engines. The compounds are
T&Al (hexagonal alpha-two phase) and TiAl
(face-centered tetragonal gamma phase).
Materials of interest to aero engines are alloys
containing mixtures of alpha-two and beta
phases, called alpha-two alloys, and mixtures of alpha-two and gamma phases,
called gamma alloys [72]. Properties of alphatwo alloys and gamma alloys are compared
with properties of conventional titanium
alloys in Table 8.
With a density close to half that of superalloys, and temperature limits for creep and
oxidation approaching 850 and 95OC, respectively, the gamma alloys are good candidates for replacing superalloys operating at
intermediate temperatures in aero engines.
Gamma alloys also have relatively high
specific modulus (relative to conventional
Ti alloys) and reasonable oxidation resistance, as well as high-temperature strength
retention and good fire resistance. Their
major shortcoming is low room-temperature
ductility which arises from a limited number of active slip systems in the constituent
phases, at room temperature [73]. The alphatwo alloys have properties that lie somewhere between those for conventional titanium alloys and the gamma alloys. Their

60

room temperature ductility is also limited,


but not as much as in gamma alloys.
Both the alpha-two and gamma alloys are
candidate materials for compressor applications as compressor discs and spacers, as
well as impellers. Because of their higher
temperature capabilities, the gamma alloys
could also be used for aft-compressor cases,
low-pressure turbine (LPI) blades, and
turbine exhaust components, as well as afterburner components and support attachments. Until recently, it appeared that alphatwo alloys might reach application status
before gamma alloys, partly because of their
superior room-temperature ductility and
more advanced state of development. However, interest in alpha-two alloys appears to
have diminished greatly over the last 2 years,
judging from the number of publications on
the subject. Papers at recent symposia on
intermetallics and titanium aluminides have
dealt almost exclusively with the gamma
alloys. This loss of interest in alpha-two
alloys could be due to the marginal performance advantage offered by these alloys over
conventional titanium alloys, as compared
to the gamma alloys.
Interest in gamma alloys is likely to grow
even further in light of recent reports from
General Electric Aircraft Engines (GEAE)
that the first engine test involving LPT blades
fabricated from a gamma alloy had been successfully completed, without the blades
showing any evidence of abnormal damage.
The test engine was a CF6-80C2 and the
blades were part of the fifth-stage turbine
rotor. The test lasted over 3 months and involved 1032 engine cycles simulating flight
conditions (T. J. Kelly, GEAE, Private Communication, 1994). A close-up of the rotor
after completion of the test is shown in
Fig. 12. The rotor contains 98 blades. The
solid blades were produced by Howmet
using conventional foundry practice. Each
blade is about 31cm long and weighs about
22Og, which is close to half the weight of the
superalloy blades used at present in the engine. It has been estimated that, if used in
the low-pressure section of the new GE 90
engine as a blade material, the gamma alloy
could cut engine weight by more than 136kg

I-?? lmmarigeon

et al.

FIG. 12. Low-pressure turbine rotor with solid airfoils


fabricated from gamma titanium aluminide after engine testing (T. J. Kelly, GEAE, Private Communication,
1994).

[74]. Rotor centrifugal loads are reduced by


lighter blades and a thinner rotor disc could
be used, which explains the large weight
reduction.
The gamma alloy tested by GE was a
second-generation cast alloy developed by
GEs Corporate R and D (research and development) Group. Third-generation alloys
are being developed at GE and elsewhere
with modified chemistries and controlled
microstructures to provide improved hightemperature capabilities, The new alloys are
either cast or wrought and, in both cases,
are solution strengthened with refractory
metals (e.g., W) and other elements (e.g.,
Si) to improve creep resistance [75]. The
on-going developments are focused on
achieving more balanced properties between
strength, ductility, creep resistance, oxidation resistance, and toughness. This is not
a simple task, since alloying elements that
improve ductility, such as Cr or Mn, reduce
oxidation resistance, while elements that improve oxidation resistance, such as Nb or
W, reduce ductility. Similarly, microstructural changes that improve tensile strength
tend to lower toughness and creep resistance
[76]. Also, with gamma alloys, toughness
and ductility are inversely related, which is
a limiting factor, but novel processing routes
are being explored to produce microstructures that would provide both toughness
and ductility [75].

61

Aircrafl Applications

Gamma alloys can be produced by conventional fabrication methods including investment casting and mechanical hot working of ingolts. Casting is usually followed by
HIPing to remove porosity. The alloys are
hot worked by isothermal forging, hot-die
forging, or extrusion. Gamma alloys can also
be processed by powder metallurgy techniques using either blended elemental, prealloyed, or mechanically alloyed powders as
starting materials [71]. A number of other
P/M-processing routes, such as reactive
powder processing [77] or thermochemical
powder processing [71], have also been explored. The consolidation of powders into
usable structural materials is normally
achieved through HIPing, hot pressing, extrusion, or forging.
The effects of mechanical hot working on
texture development, microstructural evolution, and properties in wrought IM or
powder-pmcessed gamma alloys are not well
understood. Final microstructure is normally
dictated by heat treatment, following thermomechanical processing. However, microstructure can also be controlled through
multistep hot working and, in the case of
HIPing, by incorporating the heat treatment
with the HIP cycle [78, 791. In addition,
controlled cooling rates in the HIP vessel
from the peak temperature soak can be used
to produce interlocking or serrated grain
boundaries to improve the creep properties
of compacts [80, 811.
Investigations have been carried out at
NRC both on binary (Ti-48Al) and ternary
(Ti-48Al-2W and Ti-48Al-3Cr) P/M alloys to
assess the effects of mechanical attrition, hot
isostatic pressing, isothermal forging, and
heat treatment on alloy microstructure and
properties. The four basic microstructures
which can be produced in wrought IM alloys
[75,76] can also be produced in powder processed alloys [80]. These microstructures are
the so-called near-gamma, duplex, nearly
lamellar, and fully lamellar microstructures,
examples of which are shown in Fig. 13 for
the Ti-48Al-3Cr alloy. Details of the HIP
cycles and heat treatments used to produce
the microstructures are discussed elsewhere
[80]. Mechanical attrition of preaIIoyed pow-

der drastically reduces the grain size of compacts produced by hot isostatic pressing. For
the two NRC ternary alloys, compacts produced from as-atomized powder had grain
sizes from 5 to 1Opm while compacts produced from attrited powder had grain sizes
of about 3OOnm, as shown in Fig. 14. Evidence of beta phase is more prominent in
the W-containing alloy. The NRC investigations have also shown that forgeability of
ternary powder compacts varies with alloy
composition and processing conditions [82,
831. Processing windows exist within which
the compacts exhibit superplastic behavior.
In Ti-48AL2W,the beta phase at grain boundaries promotes good forgeability by preventing grain growth during forging [83].
Gamma alloys in the near-gamma or duplex microstructural conditions are generally
stronger and more ductile, whereas in the
nearly lamellar or fully lamellar conditions,
the same alloys are tougher and more creep
resistant [76]. Creep properties are also
strongly influenced by alloy composition.
This is shown in Fig. 15, which compares
the creep curves for the two NRC ternary
alloys. The Ti-48Al-2W alloy has much better creep resistance than the Ti-48Al-3Cr
alloy. Also, both ternary alloys are more
creep resistant in the fully lamellar microstructural condition [BO].
TITANIUM-MATRIX

COMPOSITES

The stiffness and strength of titanium alloys


and titanium ahnninides can be significantly
increased by reinforcement with continuous
ceramic fibers. Different types of fiber reinforcements have been considered to date,
although Sic is by far the preferred choice
over C, B, or A1203 fibers because of its
long-term stability at temperatures greater
than 480C [84,85]. The major driving forces
for TMC development in the United States
have been the NASP (National Aerospace
Plane), the HSCT (High-Speed Civil Transport), and the IHPTET (Integrated HighPerformance Turbine Engine Technology)
programs. Bladed compressor rings, shafts,
ducts, fan components, structural rods, and
so on, are expected to be made out of TMCs

J-??lmmarigeon et al.

FIG. 13. Typical microstructures in powder-processed gamma titanium aluminide: (a) fine-grained near-gamma,
(b) tine-grained duplex, (c) coarse-grained nearly lamellar, and (d) coarse-grained fully lamellar. The material was
produced by hot isostatic pressing from Ti-4&41-3Cr prealloyed powder.

in the HSCT. Similarly, the TMCs are being


considered for aircraft skin, internal structures, and medium-temperature-range engine parts in the case of NASI? In traditional
airframe and aeroengine structures, however, the TMCs have only been considered
for limited use in landing gears and as inserts
in engine discs and impellers or fan-blade
airfoils. Efforts are under way worldwide for
developing techniques for reinforcing matrices of either conventional titanium alloys,
such as Ti&Al+W, IMT-844, Ti-15-3, Timetal
21S, or recently developed Ti&l and TiAl
aluminides with 30-5096 of Sic fibers.
Experimental TMC materials as well as
prototype components have been produced
by textron using the foil-fiber-foil (FFF) technique, as shown in Fig. 16 [84]. For ringshaped inserts for discs and impellers, layers

of metallic foils and circumferentially wound


fibers are stacked together and consolidated
by hot pressing or hot isostatic pressing.
There are, however, some disadvantages associated with this process: the cost of the
foils is high and debuckling problems, that
is, displacement of the fibers, can occur during HIPing. Another promising technique
for manufacturing TMCs is the matrix-coated
fiber (MCF) process, which relies on coating
the Sic fibers with the matrix material using
electron-beam deposition or other spraying
techniques [86]. These coated fibers can then
be easily wound on a mandrel to produce
ring-shaped components either through hot
pressing or I-Wing.
Two sources of Sic fibers are Textron Specialty Materials from the United States, producing SCS-X fibers, and British Petroleum,

63

Aircraff Applications

FIG. 14. Optical and transmission electron micrographs of ternary gamma alloys produced by hot isostatic pressing from attrited prealloyed powders: (a and b) Ti-4&U-3Cr, and (c and d) Ti-Ml-2W.

producing Sigma fiber. The latter is an uncoated W core Sic fiber which is stiffer and
about 25%~more dense than the SCS-6 fiber.
The success in producing TMCs with either
fiber type will depend upon the processing
conditions used to produce the component.
Any process or fiber type which will suppress the deleterious interface reactions and
minimize otherfiber-matrix interface defects
is likely to be preferred.

C:ONCLUDINC

terials and processing concepts have been


developed to the point where they can be
evaluated in structures, many are at a very
early stage of development. Much work will

16,

REMARKS

Quite a number of new materials and processing concepts have emerged in the last
few years, as described in this article, which
offer opportunities for further reductions in
aircraft weight or further growth in engine
performance. While some of these new ma-

76OoC - 276MPa
I

100

200

TIME

300

400

500

IN HOURS

FIG. 15. Creep curves for two ternary gamma alloys


produced by hot isostatic pressing from prealloyed
powders in either the duplex (as HIPed) or fully lame&r microstructural conditions [So].

1-P
Blade
/

lmmarigeonet al.

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l-l

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Foil
Center
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________________

Fabric
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Received January 1995; accepted March 1995.