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Wear, I33 (1989)

173

173

- 187

MICROSTRUCTURE
COMPOSITES*

AND WEAR

OF CAST

(Al-Si

ALLOY)-GRAPHITE

S. DAS and S. V. PRASAD


Regional Research
Laboratory
462026
(M.P.) (India)

(Council

of Scientific

and Industrial

Research),

Bhopal

T. R. RAMACHANDRAN
Indian

Institute

of Technology,

Kanpur

208016

(U.P.)

(India)

Summary
Graphite-particle-dispersed
Al-Si alloys have potential for a variety of
antifriction
applications.
In the present investigation,
two Al-Si
alloys
(LM13
of near eutectic
and LM30 of hypereutectic
composition)
were
chosen as matrix alloys and composites were prepared by casting. Composites and matrix alloys were heat treated to produce different morphologies
of silicon ranging from plate-like in die-cast alloys to near spherical in heattreated alloys.
Wear tests were conducted,
under both dry and partially lubricated
conditions,
with SAE30 oil on a pin-on-disc wear test apparatus, against a
rotating
steel (EN25)
counterface.
In partially lubricated
wear tests, the
sliding velocity V was varied from 1.4 to 4.6 m s- and the applied pressure
P from 1 .O to 5 .O MPa. P-V limits of all matrix alloys and composites with
different
microstructures
were evaluated.
Heat-treated
composites
were
found to possess superior wear properties (wear rate, seizure resistance and
P-V limits) as compared
with those of die-cast composites
and matrix
alloys. Worn surfaces of heat-treated
composites showed the presence of a
graphite film while those of die-cast alloys and composites showed surface
fracture.
The role of graphite particle dispersion and the morphology
of
silicon on the sliding we::r behaviour is discussed.

1. Introduction
Al-S1 alloys are extensively
used in tribological
applications
such as
pistons (and in some cases as cylinder liners) in internal combustion engines.
Although Al-Si alloys meet many of the requirements
for such applications,
their poor resistance
to seizure makes them vulnerable under poor lubricating conditions.
To overcome
this problem,
several investigators
have
*Paper presented at the International
U.S.A., April 8 - 14, 1989.

Conference

on Wear of Materials,

0043-1648/89/$3.50

@ Elsevier Sequoia/Printed

Denver,

CO,

in The Netherlands

174

dispersed solid lubricant particles such as graphite in Al-Si alloy matrices


[l - 41. Techniques
to produce Al-Si alloy graphite composites by various
casting routes have also been developed in recent years [ 51.
There have been a number of reports describing the sliding wear behaviour of aluminium alloy-graphite
particle composites under dry [ 3, 6, 7 1 as
well as lubricated
[ 1, 2, 4, 8, 91 conditions.
Studies have shown that the
spreadability
of lubricating oil such as SAE30 on Al-S1 alloys increases with
the increasing percentage
of graphite dispersion
[lo]. The coefficient
of
friction of these composites against rotating steel discs and the temperature
rise of the test pin during the pin-ondisc wear test were reported to decrease
with increase in graphite content
[3]. However, there have been some
conflicting
reports on the dry sliding wear behaviour of aluminium alloy -~
graphite composites.
Biswas and Pramila Bai [6] reported
that Lhe dry
sliding wear of Al-Si alloy composites containing 2.7 and 5.7 wt.% graphite
particles was found to be higher than that of the matrix alloy. Similar
findings were reported by Gibson et al. [3] for composites with a higher
(greater than 8 wt.%) graphite content. The loss in composite tensile strength
and ductility associated with graphite particle addition was believed to be
the cause for such anomalous behaviour. One way to solve this problem is
through proper control of the matrix microstructure.
(Al-Si alloy)-graphite
is essentially a three-phase composite consisting
of silicon (primary and/or eutectic), a-aluminium and graphite. The microstructure of the matrix (i.e. the size and morphology
of the silicon phase)
controls the mechanical
properties
as well as the wear behaviour of the
composite
material. This study was therefore
aimed at understanding
the
role of matrix microstructure
on the wear behaviour of two Al-Si alloys
containing dispersed graphite particles. One material, LM13, is a standard
piston alloy whereas the second, LM30, has a potential for use as cylinder
liners in internal combustion
engines in place of much heavier cast iron.
Wear studies in dry and partially lubricated
conditions
were conducted
under a wide range of loads and sliding speeds.

2. Experimental

details

2.1. Material preparation


The two matrix alloys chosen for the present investigation
are (i) a
near-eutectic
Al-Si alloy (B.S.LM13) and (ii) a hypereutectic
Al-Si alloy
(B.S.LM30). The chemical compositions
of the alloys are shown in Table 1.
Composites
containing
3 wt.% graphite particles (63 - 120 pm) were prepared by the vortex technique
which is described fully elsewhere [ll].
Briefly, the various steps involved are melting the alloy, creating a vortex
by mechanical stirring and casting the composite melt into a metallic mould.
To increase the wettability
of graphite particles by the Al-Si alloy, magnesium (1 wt.%) was added to the melt prior to graphite particle dispersion.

175
TABLE

Chemical

Alloy

LM13
LM30

compositions

Elementa

of LM13

and LM30

alloys

(wt.%)

Si

cu

11.0
17.0

1.0
4.5

1.0
0.5

aIn addition,
the melt was alloyed
posites. The Al-Si eutectic contains

Ni

Fe

Mn

Al

1.5
0.1

0.8
0.3

0.5
0.1

Balance
Balance

with 1.0 wt.% Mg during


12.6 wt.% Si [14].

the preparation

of the com-

2.2. Heat treatment

The following heat treatment


cycles were used: the LM13 alloy and
composites were solution treated at 520 C for 8 h, quenched in warm water
at 60 C and aged at 180 C for 6 h. The LM30 alloy and composites were
solution treated at 495 C for 9 h, quenched in warm water at 60 C and aged
at 175 C for 8 h.
2.3. Wear tests
23.1. Dry sliding wear
Dry sliding wear tests for Al-Si alloys and composites were carried out
using a Cameron-Plint
pin-on-disc wear test apparatus. A schematic illustration of the apparatus is shown in Fig, 1. Cylindrical pin specimens (diameter,
8 mm; length, 53 mm) were held against a rotating EN 25 steel disc (hardness, 32 HRC). The load on the sample was applied by means of a hydraulic
system and the pressure was computed by dividing the load by the nominal
contact area. The frictional force was measured by means of strain gauge
force transducer (Fig. 1). In the dry sliding wear tests, the disc was rotated
at a constant speed of 640 rev min-. A wear track diameter of 80 mm
provided a sliding velocity of 2.68 m s-i. Temperature
rises during testing
were monitored using a chromel-alumel
thermocouple,
inserted into a hole
in the sample 1.5 mm from the sliding surface. Wear rates were computed
from weight loss measurements
taken at intervals of 500 m sliding distance.

End loading
by hydraulic
cylinder

Force
transducer

Fig. 1. Schematic

representation

of the Cameron-Plint

pin-on-disc

wear test apparatus.

176

Pressure on the specimen was increased in steps of 0.5 MPa until the specimen seized before a sliding distance of 500 m was reached. The onset of
seizure was signalled by a sudden increase in test pin temperatures followed
by vibration and noise from the disc-pin assembly.
2.3.2. Lubricated sliding wear
Partially lubricated we.3 tests were performed on the same apparatus
but using a modified procedure. In this case, the steel disc (EN25) was first
dipped in SAE30 lubricating oil. The excess oil was spun off the disc by
rotating it for 5 s at 640 rev mm
. -l before the commencement of the actual
test.
All lubricated wear tests were carried out at sliding distances up to
2500 m. Disc rotation was first fixed at 330 rev min (corresponding sliding
velocity, 1.38 m s-i). A pressure of 1 .O MPa was applied to the specimen and
the test was run for 2500 m. If the sample did not seize at this pressure the
disc was removed, cleaned, reimmersed in SAE30 oil, excess oil removed and
the applied pressure was increased in steps of 0.5 MPa. By this means a
critical applied pressure was determined where seizure occurred within a
sliding distance of 2500 m.
2.4. Microscopy

Samples for microscopic examination were prepared by standard


metallographic procedures, etched with Kellers reagent and examined by
both optical and scanning electron microscopy, the latter equipped with a
wavel~n~d~persive
X-ray spectrometer capable of detecting carbon.
Both worn surfaces and wear debris were examined in the scanning electron
microscope. Debris was gold coated prior to examination.

3. Results
3.1. Microstructure
The microstructures of diecast (Al-Si (LM13) alloy)-graphite particle
composites are shown in Fig. 2. Figure 2(a) shows the distribution of graphite particles in the Al-Si alloy matrix while Fig. 2(b) shows the matrix
mi~rost~cture. The microst~cture immedia~ly su~ounding the dispersed
graphite particles (Fig. 2(c)) shows that the graphite particle was pushed into
the last freezing eutectic liquid. The microstructure of the Al-Si (LM13)
alloy matrix in the heat-treated condition is shown in Fig. 3. Clearly, the
heat treatment altered the morphology of the eutectic silicon from plate-like
to nearly spherical. The microstructure of the LM30-graphite particle
composite in the die-cast condition is shown in Fig. 4(a). Graphite particles,
primary silicon and eutectic silicon can be clearly seen. A typical matrix
microstructure of the heat-treated LM30 alloy (Fig, 4(b)) shows similar
changes in the morphology of eutectic silicon as in the case of LM13 alloy.

(c)
Fig. 2. Microstructure
of AI-S1 (LM13)
alloy-graphite
particle
composites
in the diecast condition
showing (a) the distribution
of graphite particles,
(b) a magnified view of
the matrix
microstructure
and (c) matrix microstructure
in the vicinity
of the graphite
particle.

Fig. 3. Microstructure

of Al-Si

(LM13)

alloy matrix

in the heat-treated

condition.

3.2. Dry sliding wear


Dry sliding wear rates of die-cast alloys (LM13 and LM30) as a function
of applied pressure are shown in Fig. 5. It can be seen that the wear rates of
both the alloys increased with applied pressure although the wear rate is not

(a)
(h)
Fig. 4. (a) Microstructure
of LM30-~graphite
composite
in the die-cast condition
showing
both primary and eutectic silicon, graphite particles and primary aluminium
(P, primary
silicon; E, eutectic silicon; G, graphite).
(b) Microstructure
of LM30 alloy matrix in the
heat-treated
condition.
The change in the shape of eutectic silicon from needle-like
to
nearly spherical should be noted.

ALMl3
OLM30
+ Seizure

Pressure, MPo

Pressure.
MPo

Fig. 5. Effect

of applied

pressure

on the dry sliding wear of Al-&

alloys.

Fig. 6. Effect of applied pressure on the dry sliding wear rates of LM13 alloy and LMl3
graphite composites
in the die-cast and heat-treated conditi.ons.

directly proportional
to the applied pressure. For instance, the wear rate of
LM13 alloy was increased from 1.0 X lo--l2 to 2.5 x lo-l2 m3 m-l when the
applied pressure was increased from 1.0 to 1.5 MPa. Beyond this applied
pressure (i.e. at 2.0 MPa), a drastic increase in wear rate from 2.5 X lo-l2 to
17 X lo-l2
m3 m- was observed. The specimens were also seized at this
pressure before a sliding distance of 500 m was reached. By constrast, there
was no such drastic increase in the wear of LM30 alloy with increase in

179

applied pressure. Secondly, the LM30 alloy seized at a much higher applied
pressure of 5.0 MPa.
Figure 6 shows the effect of graphite particle dispersion and heat
treatment on the wear rate of LM13 alloy at various applied pressures. Of
the four types of samples tested, the heat-treated LM13 graphite composite
showed lowest wear rates at all applied pressures. Secondly,
the seizure
resistance (i.e. tie minimum pressure at which the sample seized) is the
highest for the heat-treated LM13 graphite composite. The seizure resistance
of LM30 alloy was not influenced by heat treatment and/or graphite particle
dispersion. However, heat-treated LM30-graphite
composites
showed the
lowest wear rates at all applied pressures (Fig. 7).

4MPa
3MPa
2 M30

_I
0

Pressure,

Fig. 7. Effect
in the die-cast

of the test pin as a function

60
T#me, seconds

MPa

of applied pressure on the dry sliding


and heat-treated
conditions.

Fig. 8. Temperature

20

wear of LM30

of time for LM30

alloy

and composites

alloy.

The temperature of the LM30 wear pin as a function of time at various


applied pressures is shown in Fig. 8. It can be seen that the temperature of
the specimen increased rapidly during the first 20 s of the experiment and
thereafter it increased at a much reduced rate. The maximum temperature
of the test pin increased with the applied pressure. At an applied pressure
of 5 MPa there was a sudden increase in the temperature after a sliding
distance of 250 m and this sudden increase in temperature was taken as the
onset of seizure. The temperature rise for all other test pins at various
applied pressures until seizure is shown in Table 2. There appears to be a
direct correlation between time-temperature
plots (Table 2) and the applied
pressure wear rate plots (Figs. 6 and 7). In both cases, heat-treated composites showed generally superior properties.
The coefficient
of friction was computed
by dividing the frictional
force by the normal load (Table 3). It can be seen from Table 3 that there
was a marginal decrease in the coefficient of friction on the LM13 alloy due
to heat treatment or graphite particle dispersion, whereas the combined
action of heat treatment and graphite particle dispersion reduced the coef-

180
TABLE

Maximum

temperature

of test pins during sliding wear


_

Applied
pressure

Temperature
LM13
die
cast

WPa)

1.0

1.5

44
50

2.0
2.5
3.0
3.5
4.0
5.0

--___

(C)

LM13
(HT)

LM13
graphite

LM13
graphite
(HT)

LM30
die
cast

LM30
WT)

36

39

_._.__
LM30
graphite
(HTj

47

3s

80
-.

7-I

86

44

60

154a

98
150a

72
98

90
106

80
._

_
-

144
150a

118

108

130

1 5oa

136
21Ba

_____.
LM30
graphite

-_._..

82
100

130
158a

116

1IO

_.
162
206a

I18
160

aSeizure.

TABLE

Coefficients

of friction

Alloy

Coefficient

LM13 (die cast)

0.125
0.119
0.103
0.059
0.172
0.143
0.140
0.071

LM13 (HT)
LM13-graphite
(HT)
LM13-graphite
LM30 (die cast)
LM30 (HT)
LM30-graphite
LMSO-graphite

(HT)

of friction

ficient of friction of LM13 alloy by half. Similarly, the coefficient of friction


of LM30 alloy was reduced from 0.170 to 0.071 because of graphite particle
dispersion and heat treatment.
A scanning electron micrograph of a typical worn surface of die-cast
LM13 alloy is shown in Fig. 9(a). The wear surface is characterized by fairly
long grooves and surface cracks. The tendency for fracture during wear
appears to be less in the case of heat-treated LM13 alloy (Fig. 9(b)). The
worn surface of diecast LM13graphite composite also showed fairly long
grooves (Fig. 10(a)) and no graphite film was detected on this surface.
Figure 10(b) shows a scanning electron micrograph of the worn surface of
heat-treated LM13graphite composite. Fracture was not evident in this case
and formation of patches of graphite film can be seen (Fig. 10(b)). Scanning
electron micrographs of LM30 alloy and LM30graphite composite in the
die-cast condition are shown in Figs. 11(a) and 11(b). There is little visible

(b)

(a)
Fig. 9. Scanning
electron
tion and (b) heat-treated

micrographs
condition.

of LM13

alloy:

(a) die-cast

condi-

(b)

(a)
Fig.
site:

of worn surfaces

10. Scanning
electron
(a) die-cast condition

(a)
Fig. 11. Scanning
electron
LMSO-graphite
composites

micrographs
of worn surfaces
and (b) heat-treated
condition.

of LM13

alloy-graphite

compo-

(b)
micrographs
of worn
in die-cast condition.

surfaces

of

(a) LM30

alloy

and

(b)

difference
between the two wear surfaces. In both cases, there were long
grooves and patches of severely damaged regions. In contrast, wear surfaces
of heat-treated
L~30-~phite
eomposites (Fig. 12(a)) showed no evidence
of severely damaged regions; the number of grooves was much less ana the
surface showed the presence of graphite film. Figure 12(b) is a carbon X-ray

Fig. 12. (a) Scanning dectron micrograph of worn surface of heat-treated L~30-~aphite
composite. (b) X-ray dot map of carbon corresponding to (a).

A scanning electron micrograph


of typical die-cast LM13 alloy debris
at low applied pressure (1.0 MPa) is shown in Fig. 13. Most of the debris
particles are seen to be small and equiaxed. In contrast, debris from die-cast
LM13 alloy at pressures close to seizure (2.0 MPa) were found to be flaky
in nature (Figs. 14(a) and 14(b)). The magnified view of typical flake-type
debris, showing cracks, is shown in Fig, 14(b). Debris from die-cast LM13graphite composite
were also observed to be similar to those of die-cast
LM13 alloy. However, debris from heat-treated
LM13graphite
composite
were found to be much smaller in size, e.g. Fig. 15(a). Some of the debris
are flaky and occasionally
a few machining
chips were also observed
(Fig. 15(b)). In the case of die-cast LM30 alloy and die-cast LM30graphite

Fig. 13. Scanning electron micrograph of LM13 debris obtained at low (1.0 MPa) applied
pressure.

Fig. 14. (a) Scanning electron micrograph of die-cast LM13 alloy wear debris at high
applied pressures (2.0 MPa). (b) Magnified view of a typical flake-type debris particle
showing cracks.

(a)

(b)

Fig. 15. (a) Debris from heat-treated LMlS-graphite


composite (applied pressure, 2.5
MPa). (b) An occasional machining chip from heat-treated LM13 alloy (applied pressure,
2.0 MPa).

(a)

(b)

Fig. 16. (a) Scanning electron micrograph of a large silicon wear debris particle from
LM30 alloy (applied pressure, 4 MPa). (b) Silicon X-ray dot map corresponding to (a).

184

composites, the debris also consisted of large faceted silicon (size, 70 pm)
particles in addition to flake-type debris. One such silicon debris particle is
shown in Fig. 16(a). Figure 16(b) is a silicon dot map corresponding to
Fig. 16(a).
3.3. Partially lubricated wear
P-V limits of LM13 alloy and LM13 alloy-graphite composites in
die-cast and heat-treated conditions are shown in Fig. 17 while the corresponding curves for LM30 alloy and composites are shown in Fig. 18. Each
point in any one curve represents the minimum applied pressure at which the
specimen begins to seize at a particular sliding velocity (speed). At lower
sliding velocities, the specimens were able to withstand higher applied pressures. With an increase in sliding velocity, however, there was a progressive
decrease in the limiting value of the applied pressure. It can be seen from
Fig. 17 that the maximum P-V limits are obtained for the LM13graphite
composites in the heat-treated condition. Similarly, the P-V limits of heattreated LM30graphite composites were found to be superior to those of the
other LM30-based alloys. Therefore the results of partially lubricated sliding
wear studies appear to be in good agreement with the results of the dry
wear tests. In both cases, the heat-treated composites showed optimum
properties.
1

12

12r-

l LMl3CtiT)
A LM 13-Grophlte

2 _

0 LM 13-Graphfte

(HT)

[II LM 30-Graphrte

J
5
Sltdmg

velocity,

m/s

(HT)

Shdmg

velocity,

I
:

m/s

Fig. 17. P-V limits for LM13 alloy and composites.


Fig. 18. P-V limits for LM30 alloy and composites.

4. Discussion
In the Al-Si alloy system, the eutectic forms at 12.6 wt.% Si [14]. The
microstructure of LM13 alloy (containing 11.0 wt.% Si), solidified in a
metallic mould, consists of primary aluminium dendrites with an average
dendrite arm spacing (i.e. centre-tocentre distance between neighbouring

185
TABLE 4
Tensile strengths of aluminium alloys and composites
Alloy

Ultimate tensile
strength (MPa)

LM13 (die cast)


LM13 (HT)
LMl3-~aphite
LM13-graphite (HT)
LM30 (die cast)
LM30 (HT)

180
280
130
190
140

LMSO-graphite
LMSO-graphite (HT)

220
98
160

dendrites) of the order of 18 pm and eutectic silicon in the interdendritic


region and around the dendrites (Fig. 2(b)). The eutectic silicon is plate
like in appearance and some of these plates are interconnected.
The heat
treatment of Al-Si alloy resulted in a significant change in the morphology
of eutectic silicon from plate like (Fig. Z(b)) to nearly spherical {Fig. 3). This
change in morphology
of silicon due to heat treatment
also results in an
increase in the tensile strength of LM13 alloy from 180 to 280 MPa (Table
4). In hypereutectic
Al-$ alloy, the first phase to solidify is primary silicon
as large cuboids and the remaining liquid is solidified as primary aluminium
and Al-Si eutectic phase. In this case also, heat treatment
resulted in a
change in morpholo~
of eutectic silicon.
Previous investigators have reported that the wear of Al-Si alloy is not
a linear function of applied pressure [12]. A transition from mild to severe
wear was observed as the load was increased. This transition load was also
reported to depend upon the silicon content [ 121. Our results (Fig. 5) also
confirm a change in wear behaviour from mild to severe with increase in
applied pressure. It is also interesting to note that the wear debris collected
at low applied pressure (1.0 MPa) are small and equiaxed (size, less than
4 pm) compared
with large flake-type
debris (length, 450 pm; breadth,
250 pm) found at higher applied pressure. The presence of a large amount
of flake-type
debris suggests that delamination
is the predominant
wear
mechanism at higher applied pressure [13 J. Del~ination
is based on the
hypothesis
that subsurface
cracks fpre-existing
or nucleated due to the
normal and tangential stresses) propagate during the course of wear, When
such subsurface cracks join the wear surface, flake-type wear particles are
generated. In addition to delamination,
the presence of significant numbers
of large faceted silicon wear debris particles in hypereutectic
alloys suggests
that the large primary silicon has a tendency to fracture during sliding wear.
When delamination
is the operating wear mechanism, the tensile strength
of the material controls the crack propagation and the overall wear behaviour. Graphite particle dispersion reduces the tensile strength of the resultant
composites. The tensile strength of LM13 alloy in the die-cast condition was

186

reduced from 180 to 130 MPa, while that of LM30 alloy was reduced from
140 to 98 MPa from the 3.0 wt.% dispersion of graphite partiefes (Table 4).
This fess in strength offsets the positive effect of dispersed solid lubricant
in reducing friction and shear stresses. In addition to graphite, the sharpedged silicon phase also acts as a stress riser. The stress concentration can
be lowered by changing the morphology of silicon from plate shaped to
spherical.
The results of the present study show that, under both dry and Iubricated sliding wear conditions, superior wear properties were generalfy
observed in the case of heat-treated composites, It is interesting to note
that the worn surfaces of heat-treated composites showed graphite film on
the sliding surfaces whereas no such graphite film was detected on the worn
surfaces of die-cast composites. The combined effect of the increase in
tensile strength and the reduction in metal-to-metal contact (i.e. between
AI-Si alloy and steel) due to the presence of graphite film on the mating
surface might have resulted in the observed improvements in the friction and
wear properties of the heat-treated composites.

5, Conclusions
(I) The presence of dispersed graphite particles and the morphology
of the silicon phase were found to influence the friction and wear behaviour
of the (Al-% ploys-~phite
composites.
(2) For the LM13 alloys and composites, the heat-treated composites
showed least wear and maximum resistance to seizure. Similarly, the heattreated LM30 alloy-graphite composites showed optimum wear properties.
(3) The worn surface of the heat-treated composites showed the presence of a graphite film whereas those of the die-cast alloys and composites
showed a considerable amount of surface cracks.
(4) The coefficients of friction of the LMl3 and LM30 alloys were
reduced by more than 50% because of graphite particle dispersion and heat
treatment.
(5) The P-V limits of the heat-treated composites under partially
lubricated conditions were found to be higher than those of the other
materials.

Two of the authors (S.D. and S.V.P.) are grateful to Dr. R. Kumar,
Director RRL, Bhopal, for his encouragement and permission to publish
this paper.

187

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