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J O U R N A L O F M A T E R I A L S S C I E N C E L E T T E R S 2 1, 2 0 0 2, 767 769

Effect of applied stresses on fatigue damage mode of an alumina ber reinforced pure aluminum composite
WENLONG ZHANG, MINGYUAN GU, JIAYI CHEN, ZHENGAN WU, FAN ZHANG State Key Lab of MMCs, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 1954 Hua Shan Road, Shanghai 200030, Peoples Republic of China E-mail:

Continuous alumina-ber-reinforced aluminum matrix composites have a signicant engineering potential in aerospace and electric power transmission industries due to their outstanding combination of high stiffness, high strength, and low density as well as relatively high electrical conductivity [16]. Their main advantages over ber-reinforced polymer matrix composites include superior resistance to degradation both in humid environments and under ultraviolet radiation as well as their chemical compatibility with the Al alloys that are used in aircraft structures. One particularly interesting attribute of these composites is that attractive longitudinal mechanical properties can be achieved with a matrix of high purity [1, 5, 6]. Hence, relatively high electrical conductivity, on the order of one-half that of pure aluminum, can also be attained by this class of composite materials, such that continuous wires of high-strength alumina ber reinforced aluminum are emerging as an attractive candidate materials for electric power transmission [1, 6]. Fatigue is one of the critical designs in structural components and is known to be responsible for the majority of failures of structural components. As the structural materials in aerospace and electric power transmission industries, continuous alumina-berreinforced aluminum matrix composites are often subject to vibrations and other uctuating loads, which cause fatigue degradation of the materials. For efcient and safe utilization, the fatigue behavior of alumina ber reinforced aluminum matrix composites should be understood. Preliminary fatigue tests indicate that, the endurance limit of the Al-2Cu/Al2 O3 and Al/Al2 O3 composites exceeds 700800 MPa, and that the high cycle fatigue life depends on the applied maximum stress level [1, 2]. However, the exact mechanisms of damage accumulation, matrix plasticity, and nal failure mechanism have not yet be full understood [1]. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effect of applied stress level on fatigue damage mode of alumina ber reinforced aluminum matrix composites. The material investigated was a continuous metal matrix composite wire containing Nextel alumina ber in a pure aluminum matrix and was manufactured by 3M Company by a casting process. The average diameter of the wire was 2.02 mm with a variation of 0.09 mm. The average diameter and volume fraction of bers in the composite wire were measured using Leica MEF4M image analyzer to be 10.98 m with a standard deviation of 0.55 m and 45% with a standard deviation

of 4.45%, respectively. The crystalline structure of the alumina ber was determined using the selected area electron diffraction to be -Al2 O3 . The average grain size of the alumina bers was measured to be about 80 nm. The properties of the alumina ber are listed in Table I [1]. A typical distribution of bers in the wire is given in Fig. 1. It can be seen that the bers are relatively well distributed in the wire. Tensile and fatigue tests were performed using a MTS 810 servo-hydraulic testing system. The average tensile strength of the composite wire was measured to be 1.50 GPa. Load-controlled fatigue tests were conducted using a load with a sinusoidal wave at a frequency of 10 Hz and a R-ratio of 0.1. R-ratio of 0.1 was used to avoid an introduction of compressive stresses. The applied maximum stresses were in the range of
T A B L E I Nextel 610 aluminum oxide bers Property Composition Mean tensile strength (for 2.54 cm length) Weibull modulus Modulus of elasticity Density Diameter Filaments per Tow Average coefcient of thermal expansion (20500 C) Max. temperature up to 900 C Value >99%Al2 O3 2.83.5 GPa 912 380400 GPa 3.93.95 g/cm3 1012 m 420, 780 7 106 C1 90% Strength retention

Figure 1 A typical distribution of the bers in the alumina ber reinforced pure aluminum composite wire.

2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers


Figure 2 A schematic diagram showing the specimen geometry for the tensile and fatigue tests.

7001200 MPa that was determined according to the results from tensile tests. All materials for the tensile and fatigue tests were unidirectional and were tested in the longitudinal direction, i.e. the ber direction. Smooth specimens with an approximate gauge diameter of 1.65 mm were used for tensile and fatigue tests. Al alloy tabs were bonded to both ends of the specimens for gripping purpose. After that, the gauge length of the specimens was hand polished to both form the smooth specimens and ensure the necessary surface nish. The geometry of the specimens is schematically shown in Fig. 2. Microstructures and fracture surfaces of specimens fatigued to failure were observed using SEM 515 scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The applied maximum stress level was of an important effect on the fatigue damage mode of the alumina ber reinforced aluminum composite. During fatigue testing, it was found that the fatigue damage mode of the composite was strongly dependent on the applied maximum stresses. When applied maximum stress was equal to or below about 0.9 GPa, longitudinal splitting occurred, while when applied stress was larger than about 0.9 GPa, no longitudinal splitting was found. Fig. 3 shows appearances of specimens fatigued at different applied stresses to failure. It was found that, at applied maximum stress of 1.2 GPa, the surface of the specimen was smooth and no longitudinal splitting occurred on the surface of the specimen (Fig. 3a).

However, at applied maximum stresses of 800 MPa and 700 MPa, the surfaces of composite specimens were not smooth and the longitudinal splitting was clearly visible (Fig. 3b and c). Therefore, there was a change in the fatigue damage mode from no longitudinal splitting at the high stresses to the longitudinal splitting at the lower stresses. As shown in Fig. 3b, the appearance of composite specimen failed at 800 MPa was somewhat similar to shaving brush that was a failure morphology of unidirectional polymer matrix composite materials [7]. The fact that there was a lot of longitudinal splitting on the surface of the composite specimen fatigued at 700 MPa up to 107 cycles indicates that, for this composite, the fatigue threshold stress, below which matrix cracks never form and fracture does not occur, if exist, should be below 700 MPa. The reason that applied stress level affected the fatigue damage mode is as follows: During the fatigue testing, there was a competition between mode-I and mode-II crack growths. At the high applied stresses, mode-I crack growth was dominant since there was a high stress intensity at tip of a crack that initiated at specimen surfaces and propagated in direction perpendicular to the load direction. At the lower applied stresses, however, the stress intensity for mode-I crack propagation was small because of the low applied stresses, and mode-II crack growth was dominant due to shear stresses occurred during fatigue loading. Shear stresses would occur in specimens due to the fracture of bers, local imperfections and ber misalignment [12]. These shear stresses caused the matrix to shear deform and shear strains occurred in matrix because of the strong interfacial bonding of the composite [1, 2]. These shear strains in fatigue caused the matrix to degrade, resulting in the initiation and growing of cracks in matrix along the ber direction. Hence, the longitudinal splitting would occur under this condition. It is obvious that the longitudinal fatigue cracks initiated at the end of fractured bers, as shown in Fig. 4. These cracks affected the ability of the composite to redistribute load as it became further damaged, and thus

Figure 3 Appearances of composite specimens fatigued at different applied maximum stresses: (a) 1200 Mpa, fracture, Nf = 1620 cycles; (b) 800 Mpa, fracture, Nf = 4.67 106 cycles; (c) 700 Mpa, runout N = 107 cycles.

Figure 4 SEM photograph shows longitudinal microcracks at the end of fractured bers in the specimen fatigued at 750 Mpa to 6.68 106 cycles.


more ber breaks occurred that in turn caused further matrix damage. This also explains the fracture surfaces of the failed specimens, which show excessive splitting along the ber direction (Fig. 3b and c). Furthermore, the strong shielding from the high strength alumina bers to the propagation of mode-I cracks also was a reason that cracks propagated in matrix close to the ber/matrix interfaces along the ber direction. The growth of these splitting from microscopic damage and imperfections is most likely an event dominated by shear or mode-II loading. In conclusion, applied maximum stress is of an important effect on fatigue damage mode of the alumina ber reinforced pure aluminum composite. There is a change in fatigue damage mode from longitudinal splitting at low applied stresses to no longitudinal splitting at high applied stresses during fatigue failure of the composite. The longitudinal splitting can mainly be attributed to the result of the shear stresses from the ber fracture.

Acknowledgments The supports of this work by the National Science Foundation of China and 3M company of USA are gratefully acknowledged.

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Received 9 November 2001 and accepted 21 February 2002