Microstructure Development, Nanomechanical, and Dynamic Compression Properties of Spark Plasma Sintered TiB2-Ti-Based Homogeneous and Bi-layered Composites

Research paper by Neha Gupta, Venkitanarayanan Parameswaran, Bikramjit Basu

Indexed on: 17 Jun '14Published on: 17 Jun '14Published in: Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A


The growing threats due to increased use of small-caliber armor piercing projectiles demand the development of new light-weight body armor materials. In this context, TiB2 appears to be a promising ceramic material. However, poor sinterability and low fracture toughness remain two major issues for TiB2. In order to address these issues together, Ti as a sinter-aid is used to develop TiB2-(x wt pct Ti), (x = 10, 20) homogeneous composites and a bi-layered composite (BLC) with each layer having Ti content of 10 and 20 wt pct. The present study uniquely demonstrates the efficacy of two-stage spark plasma sintering route to develop dense TiB2-Ti composites with an excellent combination of nanoscale hardness (~36 GPa) and indentation fracture toughness (~12 MPa m1/2). In case of BLC, these properties are not compromised w.r.t. homogeneous composites, suggesting the retention of baseline material properties even in the bi-layer design due to optimal relief of residual stresses. The better indentation toughness of TiB2-(10 wt pct Ti) and TiB2-(20 wt pct Ti) composites can be attributed to the observed crack deflection/arrest, indicating better damage tolerance. Transmission electron microscope investigation reveals the presence of dense dislocation networks and deformation twins in α-Ti at the grain boundaries and triple pockets, surrounded by TiB2 grains. The dynamic strength of around 4 GPa has been measured using Split Hopkinson Pressure Bar tests in a reproducible manner at strain rates of the order of 600 s−1. The damage progression under high strain rate has been investigated by acquiring real time images for the entire test duration using ultra-high speed imaging. An attempt has been made to establish microstructure-property correlation and a simple analysis based on Mohr–Coulomb theory is used to rationalize the measured strength properties.