Cluster-assisted nucleation of silicon phase in hypoeutectic Al-Si alloy with further inoculation

Yong Zhang, Hongliang Zheng, Yue Liu, Lei Shi, Rongfu Xu, Xuelei Tian

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The paper discusses the responses of eutectic silicon and eutectic cells in Al-10Si alloy upon inoculation with an Al-10Si-2Fe master alloy. The further inoculation hardly destroys the modification effect of Sr but significantly refines the eutectic cells in Sr-modified samples, while in unmodified samples, it stimulates the occurrences of polyhedral silicon particles and divorced eutectic. Thermal analysis, scanning electron microscopy, (high-resolution) transmission electron microscopy and scanning and transmission electron microscopy have been used to elucidate the underlying mechanism. A cluster-assisted nucleation mechanism responsible for the enhanced nucleation of silicon phase upon inoculation is proposed. Icosahedral (AlFeSi) clusters are speculated to evolve from the added Al-10Si-2Fe master alloy in Al-10Si melt, around which aggregations of silicon atoms form. Through a series of structural evolutions, these clusters transform into precursors of a silicon crystal. The subsequent formation of silicon particles is achieved by the agglomerations and attachments of these precursors and individual silicon atoms. This hypothesis is further consolidated by the increased characteristic temperatures of eutectic and the anomalous appearance of a high density of nanoscale particles, as well as the abnormal disappearance of Sr-induced twins in further inoculated silicon particles. The increased characteristic temperatures are strong indications of the enhanced nucleation of the silicon phase. The high density of nanoscale particles with an indeterminate crystal structure are the survivors of these precursors. In an Sr-modified and further inoculated sample, the formation of Sr-induced twins is consequently inhibited due to the participation of these precursors during the growth of silicon particles. Furthermore, based on the proposed nucleation mechanism, the dependence of eutectic cell size on Sr level is elucidated in detail.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-173
Number of pages12
JournalActa Materialia
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Al-Si alloys
  • Cluster-assisted nucleation
  • Eutectic
  • Grain refinement
  • Solidification

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