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International Journal of Materials and Biomaterials Applications

Universal Research Publications. All rights reserved

ISSN 22499679
Original Article
Fabrication and mechanical properties of aluminium-boron carbide composites
S. Rama Rao *1, G. Padmanabhan2
Research scholar, Department of Mechanical Engineering, S.V.U. College of Engineering,
S. V. University, Tirupathi, India
* Corresponding author. E-mail: rama_rao_s@rediff.com
Professor, Department of mechanical Engineering, S.V.U. College of Engineering,
S. V. University, Tirupathi, India
Received 17 July 2012; accepted 09 August 2012
With the increasing demand of light-weight materials in the emerging industrial applications, fabrication of aluminiumboron carbide composites is required. In this context aluminium alloy - boron carbide composites were fabricated by liquid
metallurgy techniques with different particulate weight fraction (2.5, 5 and 7.5%). Phase identification was carried out on
boron carbide by X-ray diffraction studies. Microstructure analysis was done with scanning electron microscope. Scanning
electron microscopy images shows that boron carbide particles are uniformly distributed in aluminium matrix. The
composites were characterized by hardness and compression tests. With the increase the amount of the boron carbide, the
density of the composites decreased whereas the hardness is increased. The ultimate compressive strength of the
composites was increased with increase in the weight percentage of the boron carbide in the composites.
2011 Universal Research Publications. All rights reserved
Key words: LM6 aluminium alloy, Boron carbide, Stir casting, Mechanical properties.
1. Introduction
Aluminium metal matrix composites(AMMCs) have
considerable applications in aerospace, automotive and
military industries due to their high strength to wear ratio,
stiffness, light weight, good wear resistance and improved
thermal and electrical properties [1-2].
particles such as Al2O3, SiC are the most widely used
materials for reinforcement of aluminium. Boron carbide
(B4C) could be an alternative to SiC and Al2O3 due to its
high hardness (the third hardest material after diamond and
boron nitride). Boron carbide has attractive properties like
high strength, low density (2.52 g/cm3), extremely high
hardness, good wear resistance and good chemical stability
[3]. There has been an increasing interest in composites
containing low density [4-6]. Suggested applications for
Al-B4C composites include their use as structural neutron
absorber, armor plate materials and as a substrate material
for computer hard disks. [7-8]. Lee et al. investigated the
effect of reinforcement type on the tensile properties of the
Al- B4C and Al-SiC composites and observed that the
strength of Al-B4C composite is greater than that of the AlSiC composites [9]. Lashgari et al. investigated the effect
of heat treatment on the microstructure and tensile
properties of Al-B4C composites [10]. They reported that
mechanical properties are improved after heat treatment of
the composites.


In the present work boron carbide particles of different

weight percentage (2.5, 5, 7.5%) are reinforced in
Aluminium-Silicon alloy (LM6) matrix and test samples
were fabricated by stir casting method. Moreover, in this
research the mechanical properties of stir cast LM6 Al-B4C
composites like hardness, density and compression strength
were investigated.
2. Materials and methods
In the present study, boron carbide particles of 30 microns
size were mixed with aluminium alloy with 0, 2.5, 5 and
7.5 wt.% of reinforcement content, hereafter termed as the
A0, A2.5, A5 and A7.5, respectively. The LM6 aluminium
alloy (87.8 Al, 11.25 Si, 0.1 Mg, 0.14 Mn, 0.46 Fe, 0.08
Cu, 0.01 Ni, 0.01 Zn and 0.16 Ti), which is used as a
matrix material in the present study, is actually a eutectic
alloy having the lowest melting point that can be seen from
the Al-Si phase diagram. The main composition of LM6 is
about 86 to 88% of aluminium and 11 to 13% of silicon.
Figure 1 shows the scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of
the boron carbide particles. The X-ray diffraction (XRD)
pattern of boron carbide is shown in figure 2.
The fabrication of LM6 Al-B4C composites were carried
out by stir casting process. The line diagram of the
experimental set up used for making of these composites
was shown in figure-3. Boron carbide particles were
preheated at around 800 0C for 2 hrs to make their surfaces

International Journal of Materials and Biomaterials Applications 2012; 2(3): 15-18

Fig.1 SEM of the boron carbide particles.

Fig. 2 XRD pattern of boron carbide particles.

Fig. 3 Line diagram of the stir casting process.

oxidized. LM6 Al alloy ingots were taken into a graphite
crucible and melted in an electrical furnace. They were then
slightly cooled to below the liquids, to maintain the slurry
in the semi-solid state. The preheated boron carbide
particulates were added and mixed manually. The
composite slurry was then reheated to a fully liquid state
and mechanical mixing was carried out about 20 min at an
average mixing speed of 200 rpm. The final temperature
was controlled to be around 750 0C. After through stirring


Fig. 4 (a)-(d) Scanning electron micrographs of A0, A2.5,

A5 and A7.5 samples
the melt was poured into steel moulds of 25 mm diameter
and allowed to cool to obtain cast rods. The samples were
prepared from these cast rods.
3. Results and discussion
The microstructure of the developed composites was
observed with scanning electron microscope. The
mechanical properties like density, hardness and
compressive strength were determined.

International Journal of Materials and Biomaterials Applications 2012; 2(3): 15-18

Fig. 5 Effect of wt.% of the boron carbide on the density of

the composites.

Fig. 6 Effect of the wt.% of the boron carbide on the

hardness of the composites.
3.1 Microstructure of LM6-B4C composites
Specimens for metallographic observations were prepared
by standard polishing techniques. Kellers reagent with
composition of HF=1.0 cc, HCL=1.5 cc, HNO3=2.5 cc and
H2O=95 cc was used as etching agent. The microstructures
of the specimen were investigated by means of Scanning
electron microscope.

Fig. 7 Compressive Engineering stress Vs Engineering

strain for the composites


Figures 4(a)-(d) are the scanning electron micrographs of

the A0, A2.5, A5 and A7.5 composites respectively. These
micrographs confirm that there was a uniform distribution
of B4C particles in the base matrix; and it clearly shows
that there were no voids and discontinuities.
3.2 Mechanical properties of LM6- B4C composites
The present section deals with the mechanical properties
like density, hardness and compressive strength of the
developed composites.
3.2.1 Density measurement
The density of the alloy and composites was measured by
Archimedes drainage method by using the following
equation [11].
MMC = m / ((m-m1) X H2O)
Where MMC is the density of the LM6 Al-B4C composite,
m is the mass of the composite sample in air, m1 is the
mass of the same composite in distilled water and H2O is
the density of distilled water(at 293K) is 998 kg/m 3.
Figure 5 shows the density of the LM6 Al alloy and LM6
Al- B4C composites in as cast condition. The density was
come down from 2.65 to 2.643, 2.639, 2.633 g/cc for A0,
A2.5, A5 and A7.5 composites respectively. Since the
density of boron carbide (2.52 g/cc) is less than the density
of LM6 Al alloy (2.65 g/cc), the overall density of the AlB4C composites was got reduced.
3.2.2 Hardness studies
The hardness of the LM6 Al alloy and composites was
evaluated using Rockwell hardness testing with 100 kg load
and 0.5 mm diameter steel ball indenter. The indentation
time for hardness measurement was 15 seconds. An
average of five readings was taken for each hardness value.
The average hardness of the LM6Al alloy and LM6 Al-B4C
composites is shown in figure 6. As the amount of the
boron carbide is increasing, the hardness of the composite
is increasing. The average hardness values of A0, A2.5, A5
and A7.5 samples were measured to be 17, 25, 39 and 54
HRB. The enhancement of hardness by increasing the
weight percentage of B4C particles mainly results from: (i)
the presence of extremely harder B4C particles in the
aluminium alloy matrix and (ii) a higher constraint to the
localized matrix deformation during indentation [12].
3.2.3 Compression tests
Compressions tests were carried out on cylindrical
specimens of A0, A2.5, A5 and A7.5 samples of 20mm
diameter with H/D ratio of 1.0. Standard samples were
compressed by using a computer controlled servo hydraulic
100T universal testing machine. Online plotting of load
versus displacement was done continuously through a data
acquisition system. Compressive deformation behavior of
the LM6 and LM6- B4C composites can be understood by
studying the engineering stress and strain curves. Figure 7
shows the engineering stress and strain curves for A0,
A2.5, A5 and A7.5 samples during compression testing.
The load requirement increased with increase in
displacement for LM6 and LM6- B4C composites. The
composites show higher loads than the aluminium-silicon
alloy; and this increase is more for higher the amount of
boron carbide. This indicates that the addition of boron
carbide leads to improvement in the compressive strength
of the composites. So, improving the compressive strength

International Journal of Materials and Biomaterials Applications 2012; 2(3): 15-18

by introducing the B4C particles could be explained by the

homogeneous distribution of the B4C particles in
aluminium alloy matrix. These particles prevent the
movement of dislocations in pure LM6 Al alloy matrix
through dispersion strengthening mechanism. Moreover,
increasing the amount of B4C particles leads to a decrease
in the distance between them which cause an increase in the
required stress for dislocations movement between the B4C
particles. It consequently increases the material strength
and causes decrease in the ductility [13-14].
4. Conclusions
(1) The aluminium alloy composites containing different
amounts of boron carbide particles were produced by
stir casting method successfully.
(2) Uniform distribution of the boron carbide particles in
the matrix phase was obtained.
(3) The hardness of the composites increased and density
was decreased with increasing the amount of the boron
carbide in the matrix phase.
(4) Increasing the amount of boron carbide particles in
composites caused the ultimate compression strength
to increase.
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Source of support: Nil; Conflict of interest: None declared


International Journal of Materials and Biomaterials Applications 2012; 2(3): 15-18