The intermetallic compound, B2 NiAl, is a promising material for high temperature structural applications such as in aviation jet engines or gas turbines, provided that its high temperature mechanical properties can be improved. Although extensive efforts over the last several decades have been devoted toward enhancing ductility through alloying design and reducing impurities, as well as improving high temperature creep strength through precipitation and dispersion strengthening, these efforts have relied on traditional approaches, a combination of large grain size to limit diffusional creep and precipitation/dispersion (50 ~ 100 nm size) strengthening to limit dislocation creep, for high temperature strengthening. While traditional approaches have shown a good improvement from a relatively high temperature strengthening point of view, the size and number density of dispersoids were not able to provide sufficient strength in the high temperature creep regime. Furthermore, details of the interaction mechanism between dislocations and dispersoids are not yet well understood.
This study focuses on designing and developing advanced oxide dispersion strengthened (ODS) NiAl intermetallics with improved high temperature creep strength by incorporating a high number density (~1024 m-3) of very thermally stable Y-Ti-O nano-clusters, akin to those recently observed to improve creep strength and radiation resistance in nano-structured ferritic alloys.
Advanced ODS NiAl alloys have been produced by mechanical alloying of pre-alloyed Ni-50at%Al with Y2O3 and Ti elemental powders. The milled powders were subsequently consolidated by spark plasma sintering, with the objective of producing very high number densities of nano-sized Y-Ti-O precipitates, along with fine grain size. Advanced experimental characterization techniques, combined with microhardness strength measurement, were used to investigate the material microstructure and strength following processing and to evaluate the thermal stability during an extensive matrix of long-term thermal annealing. In particular, the size, number density and composition of nano-clusters were assessed.
While improvements in strength were obtained in the advanced NiAl ODS alloys, and the higher strength persisted through thermal annealing for 100 hrs at 1723K, characterization revealed the presence of Al in the oxide precipitate phases. The Al incorporation is believed detrimental to the formation of a high density of thermally stable Y-Ti-O nanoscale precipitates.