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International Journal of Applied Engineering Research.

ISSN 0973-4562 Volume 6, Number 1 (2011) pp. 53–63


© Research India Publications
http://www.ripublication.com/ijaer.htm

Investigations on Mechanical Properties of Friction


Stir Processed, Nano-Reinforced, AA6061 Composites

Govind Nandipati1,*, Nageswara Rao Damera2, Ramanaiah Nallu3


and K. Prasada Rao4
1
Asst. Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering,
R.V.R. & J.C. College of Engineering, Guntur, A.P. 522019, India
2
Professor, 3Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering,
AUCE, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, A.P. 530 003, India
*Corresponding Author E-mail: govind.nandipati@gmail.com
4
Professor, Department Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Indian Institute of
Technology-Madras, Chennai-6000036
Email: kpr@iitm.ac.in

Abstract

The Metal matrix composites (MMCs) are widely used in many industries.
With the development of nano technology, particles size down to nano level
enhances the properties of MMCs. The MMCs reinforced with nano size
particulate are termed as Metal matrix nano composites (MMNCs).In this
paper; various properties of the Aluminum AA6061 MMNCs are investigated.
By adding nano ceramic SiC particles in varying weight percentages,
aluminum metal matrix nano composites are fabricated and Friction stir
processed (FSP). Ultrasonic waves are used to disperse the nano particles.
Experimental results show uniform distribution and good dispersion of the
nano particles within the aluminum matrix, with very few agglomerates of
nano powders. The tensile properties and hardness values of the FSP zone are
increased significantly compared to the nano reinforced metal.

Keywords: Metal matrix composites, MMNCs, SiC nano particulates,


Aluminum alloy, FSP.

Introduction
Metal matrix composites are very attractive materials due to their superior wear
resistance, high strength and corrosion resistance, compared to pure alloys. MMCs are
fabricated by directly adding reinforcements in the matrix [1-3].They are
54 Govind Nandipati et al

homogeneous in their microstructures and are thermodynamically more stable. They


possess high yield strength as predicted by Hall-Petch equation. They also have strong
interfacial bonding between the reinforcements and the matrix [4, 5]. Intermetallic
reinforced aluminum matrix composites with ultra fine grained structure can be
fabricated by FSP. These reinforcements are distributed quite homogeneously which
enhanced the Young’s modulus, good strength and ductility [6].
The welding institute of U. K invented a relatively new joining technique that is
Friction Stir Welding (FSW). In the FSW (a tool for producing super plastic
aluminum alloys) a non consumable rotating tool with a specially designed pin and
shoulder is inserted into the abutting edges of sheets or plates to be joined and
traversed along the line of joint to form the weld. In the recent times Friction stir
processing (FSP) is drawing the attention of researchers due to the presence of very
fine grain size and high grain boundaries. Mishra et. al [7] used FSP as a generic tool
for micro structural modification and mechanical properties of alloys. In this process
also a rotating tool is inserted in a work piece for localized modification of specific
property enhancement in cast aluminum alloys. These alloys are very attractive metals
for air craft, marine and industrial applications because of their low density, light
weight, corrosion resistance and rigidity.
FSP can eliminate the casting defects (porosity, micro segregation) in a single step
and modify the coarser dendrite microstructure into a relatively homogenized one
with ultra fine grains [8].Friction stir processing was used successfully to fabricate
bulk multi element Mg based alloys with different fractions of AZ31, aluminum and
zinc [9]. Friction stir processing of a Zr-modified 2014 aluminum alloy resulted in a
high tensile strength and very fine grained stable re-crystallized microstructure[10]
accompanied by large increase in fatigue properties with respect to unstirred base
materials. By reinforcing foreign particles into aluminum matrix, ultra fine grained
structured composites can be fabricated. Defect free friction stir zones have been
produced for different alloys. The tensile tests of these alloys have showed reasonable
improvement in ultimate tensile strength, yield strength etc. with the stir processing.
The frictional heating and severe plastic deformation on the residual strains and
macrostructures in an FSP 6061-T6 aluminum alloy was reported previously [11]. The
SiC particles were dispersed in friction stir zone and microstructure, micro hardness,
thermal stability were evaluated, shown better results [12]. It is reported that during
FSP, dynamically recrystallised zone is formed with a refined grain structure caused
by severe plastic deformation due to stirring tool pin near the centre line [13].
The aim of the present work is to study the effect of FSP on the tensile properties,
hardness and microstructure of AA6061 reinforced with varied weight percentages of
Nano Silicon carbide particles.

Experimental procedure
Table 1: Chemical composition of AA6061 by % weight -Base material.

Alloy Al Mg Si Fe Cu Mn Cr Ti
AA6061 97.768 0.825 0.711 0.342 0.152 0.023 0.017 0.083
Investigations on Mechanical Properties 55

Aluminum AA6061 is melted at a temperature of 7500C, when the metal is in


fused form, nano silicon carbide particles are added in different weight percentages
(0.1%, 0.2%, 0.3%, 0.4%and 0.5%) and dispersed by ultrasonic waves, generated by
sonicator. During the dispersion process inert atmosphere is maintained by sending
Argon gas onto the surface of the molten metal. Ultrasonic waves create low pressure
cavities in the melt. The SiC nano particles occupy the cavities, there by these
pariculate settle in the interstitial spaces of the aluminum matrix and strengthen it.
The molten metal obtained is poured into a permanent mould of size 200x130x9mm3
and plates are casted. The as cast composite plates are heat treated at 5600c for 1hr,
followed by water quenching. Then the cast plates are subjected to aging at 1650c for
12hrs.The heat treated plates are tested for hardness, tensile properties and micro
structures.
The heat treated plates are Friction stir processed. FSP is carried out by a mild
steel tool of 6mm diameter tip with 8mm length. The rotational speed of the tool is
1200rpm with an axial load of 1.8kN and translational speed of 0.7mm/sec.
The Microstructural characterization is carried out by optical microscopy (OM)
and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), revealed the dispersion pattern of nano
particles. The FSP resulted in breakup of coarse acicular particles and primary
dendrites resulting in uniform distribution of SiC particles in the aluminum matrix,
which enhances the hardness and tensile properties of the composite. The effect of
FSP on the reinforcement of nano particles and matrix grain size is also studied
through OM and SEM.
Micro hardness profiles are taken across different locations on the transverse
directions of processed zones in order to evaluate the matrix inter particles hardness,
ie possible hardening or softening effects induced by FSP in the aluminum matrix.

Figure 1: Tensile specimen used for testing.

Tensile tests are conducted on the specimens obtained from the FSP zone in the
transverse direction and also from the Nano composite (MMNC), using extensometer
attached to the gauge length. Flat specimens are used for tensile tests. In order to
investigate the influence of FSP on the mechanisms of failure of tested composite,
SEM analyses are also carried out on the fractured surfaces of tensile specimens of
MMNC and Friction stir processed MMNC plates.
The metallographic samples are cut from cast plates on the FSP zone and the other
region from the plates of different compositions of SiC nano powders. These samples
are ground, rough polished and then with abrasive powder and finally etched with
Keller’s reagent composing 3ml HCL, 2ml HF, 20ml Nitric acid and 190ml of
distilled water.
56 Govind Nandipati et al

Figure 2: Schematic illustration of FSP.

Results and discussions


The as cast material is characterized by some floating crystals, due to the fast cooling,
they are embedded in the eutectic phase. Randomly distributed large porosities have
been observed. At a small distance from the centre of the stir zone, which corresponds
to heat affected zone has low hardness compared to the base material. The hardness
drops here because the precipitates are coarsened. In the region adjacent to the nugget
i.e, TMAZ no crystallization is observed because the temperature derived from the
FSP is not high enough and the deformation is not so severe to cause recrystallisation
[22].

Hardness Tests
Hardness tests are conducted on metal matrix nano composites after heat treatment
and on FSP zone. The hardness values (VHN) are listed in the table.2

Table 2: Vicker’s hardness values.

% by weight of nano Sic MMNC (Hv) After FSP(Hv)


0.1 108 118
0.2 112 120
0.3 115 126
0.4 119 132
0.5 125 136

Hardness tests are conducted on the centre line of the FSP zone, which are higher
than that of the MMNCs. Maximum hardness occurs at the center of the processed
Investigations on Mechanical Properties 57

zone i.e, the nugget zone. The minimum hardness values are observed at the interface
of the Thermo mechanically affected zone (TMAZ) and Heat effected zone (HAZ)
where hardness values are less than the MMNC. Higher hardness value up to136Hv is
observed at 0.5% of nano particulate MMNC than the hardness of the original MMNC
as 125HHv. This is due to the generation of fine recrystallised and refined grains.
During FSP due to the rotation of the tool, interface between tool shoulder and the
work piece gets heated leading to softening of the material. Stir zone is strongly
affected by tool rotation indicates that the material is experiencing large plastic strains
due to peak temperature of the range 0.6 to 0.95Tmelt ,depending up on the material,
tool design and operating conditions. At the elevated temperatures abnormal grain
growth (AGG) can occur resulting in decreased hardness. With the excellent pinning
effect of SiC nano particulate AGG can be prevented and elongations of grains occur
resulting in increased hardness.

Tensile tests
Transverse tensile properties such as yield strength, tensile strength, percentage of
elongation and joint efficiency of the Friction stir processed samples have been
evaluated.
The Tensile behavior of the composites for different weight percentages of nano
SiC particulate and Friction stir processed conditions are studied. The tensile
specimens are machined perpendicular to the FSP direction as per the ASTM-E8.The
dimensions of the specimen are gauge length-28mm and cross section 5x6 mm2.The
results of transverse tensile tests such as yield strength, tensile strength and
percentage of elongation of MMNC are reported in table.3 and table.4

Table 3: Mechanical properties of Aluminum MMNC.


% by weight of nano Sic Yield Ultimate Tensile Elongation
particulate strength(MPa) strength [MPa] (%)
0.1 320 338 39
0.2 335 355 35
0.3 360 390 30
0.4 386 425 28
0.5 402 452 24

Table 4: Mechanical properties of Aluminum MMNC after FSP.


% by weight of nano Sic Yield Ultimate Tensile Elongation(%)
particulate strength(MPa) strength[MPa]
0.1 374 393 38
0.2 405 425 30
0.3 410 430 24
0.4 415 433 20
0.5 428 465 15
58 Govind Nandipati et al

Figure 3: Stress-Strain diagram for Nano composite and base material.

500
450
400
350
300
(AA-6061+0.5% Sic)
Stress 250
(Mpa) 200
150 (AA-6061 BASE
100 METAL)
50
0
0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5

Strain

Figure 4: Stress-strain diagram for base metal and 0.5%Sic nano composite.

The tensile test results on unprocessed plates show that due to SiC reinforcement
into the aluminum matrix the tensile strength increases and reduces the elongation
before failure. Of all the processed samples 0.5%nano composite exhibited superior
tensile properties compared to the other samples, it can be inferred that the tensile
properties are having influence on the weight percentage of Nano particulate.
The refinement of aluminum matrix grains, reinforcement of particles and also
due to voids closure produced by stirring action, contributed to the increase of tensile
strength in the FSP zone. The mechanical properties of metallic materials are
influenced by the strength of the weld joint and grain size by Hall-Petch equation.
The smaller size of SiC particles and reduction of clusters favor the tensile
strength of the matrix and consequent decrease in the material elongation to failure.
This is due to the effect of the over-aging of the matrix and coarsening of the
intermetallic precipitates in the FSP zone. During tensile tests most of the specimens
failed in the FSP region but the exact location of failure is either at the retreating side
or at the advancing side.

Microstructures
The extent of super plasticity in Friction stir processed aluminum alloys, despite
favorable microstructural characteristics become limited due to the evolution of
Investigations on Mechanical Properties 59

unstable microstructures at elevated temperatures. Ductility falls off sharply at a


critical test temperature with an associated rise in flow stress due to micro structural
instability is identified as abnormal grain growth (AGG).The presence of fine
thermally stable dispersoids may help to control the AGG behavior regardless of other
micro structural characteristics.Fig-6 shows the change in grain size between MMNC
and FSPed MMNC.
The nano SiC particles are dispersed well in the stir zone. There is a perfect
interface between the AA6061 matrix and nano SiC particles. SEM images in
Figures-(6-8) shows that the SiC particulate led the grains to be refined by the FSP
through a recrystallisation process. The grain size in the MMNC region is clearly fine
compared with that of region without SiC particle.

Figure 5: OM images of grain structures of (a)Heat treated MMNC-200x (b)Heat


treated FSPed MMNC-200x (c)Heat treated MMNC-400x (d) Heat treated FSPed
MMNC-400x.

(a) (b)

Figure 6: (a) SEM image of 0.5% MMNC 20000x(b)SEM image of 0.5% MMNC-
25000x.
60 Govind Nandipati et al

In the above fig.6, it can be seen that even though some voids are present, the
nano particles are occupied the interstitial spaces.

a b
Figure 7: SEM images of (a)-0.3%MMNC+FSP-10,000x (b) 0.3%MMNC+FSP-
25,000x.

The SiC particles are well dispersed in the stir zone as shown in the fig-7 no
discernible defects and porosities could be observed. The SiC particles led the grains
to be refined by the FSP through a recrystallisation process. The grains with SiC are
fine when compared with grains without SiC particles.Fig-8 shows the SEM images
of 0.5%of nano SiC particles at higher magnification where there is uniform
distribution of nano particulate and the grain sizes are less than the 0.3% nano
composites which is in agreement with the earlier results.

a b
Figure 8: Optical image of(a)0.5%MMNC+FSP-20,000x (b)0.5%MMNC+FSP-
25,000x.
Investigations on Mechanical Properties 61

The grain size is affected by FSP parameters and presence of the SiC particulate.
The grain size increases by the decrease in the travel speed of the rotating tool [16-
18].However the grain size of the FSPed sample with the SiC particles is smaller than
the sample without the SiC particles. The FSP with the SiC particles is considered to
make fine grains more effectively due to the enhancement of the induced strain and
pinning effect by SiC particulate. C.J.Lee et al.[19] reported that the grains with 5%
and 10% in volume fraction of nano sized particles with individual particle size~20nm
after four passes were 1.8 µm and 0.8µm respectively. The translation of the rotating
tool creates a characteristic asymmetry between the two sides of the processed zone:
advancing side(AS) and the retreating side(RS).The material that flows around the
tool undergoes extreme levels of plastic deformation and thermal exposure, which
normally leads to a significant microstructural refinement in the center of the
processed zone[20].It is considered that a finer grain structure could be formed by the
FSP with uniform dispersion of smaller SiC particulate.

Conclusions
The SiC nano particulate dispersed AA6061 MMNC is successfully fabricated and
Friction stir processed. The Hardness, Tensile properties and microstructure are
studied and evaluated by the observation of grain size and dispersion of nano SiC
particles. The obtained results are summarized as follows:
(i) With the rotation speed of 1200rpm and traverse speed of 0.7mm/s, 6mm thick
aluminum AA6061 Nano SiC reinforced plates are successfully casted and
Friction stir processed.
(ii) The hardness of the friction stir processed material is increased by 6%.
(iii) FSP resulted in the generation of fine and equiaxed recrystallised grains,
breaking and uniform distribution of the SiC particles in the processed zone.
(iv) The YS and UTS of FSP-MMNC specimens reached 93%, 97%respsctively,
elongation decreased by 40% when compared with MMNCs.

Acknowledgements
The authors wish to thank Mechanical department- Andhra University, Metals joining
laboratory- IIT Madras and Central Research Facility-IIT Kharagpur for providing the
Equipment to conduct Experiments.

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