Consolidation of nanostructured metal powders by rapid forging: Processing, modeling, and subsequent mechanical behavior

Research paper by G. R. Shaik, W. W. Milligan

Indexed on: 01 Mar '97Published on: 01 Mar '97Published in: Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A


Fe-10Cu powders containing 20-nm grains were produced by attritor milling of elemental powders in argon. A rapid powder forging technique was developed to consolidate the powders into fully dense compacts while maintaining nanoscale grain sizes. Grain growth during the consolidation was controlled by reducing the time of exposure at elevated temperature to a few minutes or less, a technique which is applicable to all materials and does not necessitate the addition of dispersoids. This was achieved by heating green compacts quickly using an induction heater, and then forging and rapidly cooling them back to room temperature. Forging was conducted in a protective argon atmosphere to limit contamination. Fully dense compacts were produced at relatively low temperatures, mainly due to the accelerated creep rates exhibited by the nanostructures. Transmission electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction analysis found an average grain size of 45 nm in the fully dense samples forged at 530 °C. Indications are that finer grain sizes should be attainable by using slightly lower temperatures and higher pressures. The success of the technique (compared to hot-isostatic pressing (“hipping”)) is due to both reducing time at elevated temperatures and applying relatively high pressures. Microhardness tests revealed a significant strengthening effect due to grain size refinement, following a Hall-Petch relation. Compression testing at room temperature showed no strain hardening during plastic deformation, which occurred by shear banding. High strengths, up to 1800 MPa, were obtained at room temperature. Compression testing at 575 °C revealed a significant strain rate dependence of mechanical behavior and also the possibility of superplastic behavior. Power-law creep was observed at 575 °C, with very high steady-state creep rates on the order of 50 pct/s at 230 MPa. The consolidation process was successfully modeled by slightly modifying and applying the Arzt, Ashby, and Easterling (AAE) hot-isostatic press (HIP) model. The experiments and modeling indicated that creep was the dominant densification mechanism in these materials, even at relatively low temperatures and high loading rates. The results of this investigation suggest the possibility of a commercially viable nanostructured metal, which is easily processed to large strains at moderate temperatures, yet maintains high strength at room temperature without the necessity of heat treatment or mechanical working.