Development of efficient and scalable ultrasound-assisted solidification technologies for manufacturing advanced metallic alloys (Ultra-Cast)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hull
Department Name: Engineering

Abstract

This proposal is submitted in response to the EPSRC Manufacturing the Future Call for Investigator-led Research Projects open on 09 July 2013.

This proposal addresses the urgent need of the metal materials and manufacture industry to search and adopt next-generation, step-change technologies for the manufacturing of primary ingots and/or shaped components with much improved mechanical properties and reliability, less energy consumption and negative environmental impact, e.g. Al and Mg alloys for mass transport applications, consumer products, Ni superalloy for industrial gas turbines (IGTs) for energy generation. At present, our economic competitors are conducting extensive research in this area.

By adopting lighter alloys with better mechanical properties and reliability, mass transport systems can reduce energy consumption, adverse environmental impact, making wider application of alternative fuel schemes possible. While with improved materials performance, IGTs can be operated at a higher temperature duty cycle to increase the efficiency of energy generation.

Casting is one of the most widely used and productive manufacturing technologies for these and other applications. Ultrasonic cavitation treatment offers sustainable, economical and pollution-free solutions to melt processing and casting of conventional and advanced metallic materials with significant improvement in mechanical properties and quality of the products manufactured.

Although demonstrated on a laboratory scale, the ultrasound-assisted casting technique has not yet found widespread industrial application, mostly due to the lack of in-depth understanding of the mechanisms that lead to the macro/microstructure improvement, especially on the mechanisms of enhancing nucleation and crystal multiplication at different stages of solidification processes.

The proposed programme will study the solidification fundamentals of metallic alloys under applied ultrasonic waves, and develop industrial exploitable methodologies to control and optimise the solidified microstructure under the influence of ultrasonic waves. The goal is to realise distinct materials performance improvements in cast products through microstructure refinement, increased chemical and microstructural homogeneity and the reduction of solidification defects in primary ingots and shaped castings.

The proposed research is ambitious and challenging, aiming to study not only the fundamental mechanisms but also to establish practical methodologies of using ultrasound to promote grain nucleation and multiplication during different stages of solidification in metallic alloys.

The novelty of the research is a combination of state-of-the-art in-situ ultra-high speed imaging studies plus advanced numerical modelling and scale-up experiments performed on real metallic alloys.

The outcomes will be new knowledge and novel technological guidelines with their validity demonstrated using commercial alloys and castings produced in the pilot and industrial-scale facilities of the EPSRC Innovative Manufacturing Centre in Liquid Metal Engineering (LiME) and industry partner, Doncasters Group Ltd, providing industry with the knowledge, methodologies and tools to control microstructure of castings using ultrasound technology.

Planned Impact

The applied methodologies and technical guidelines for control the solidification microstructure using ultrasound developed from this project will provide the industry with novel melt processing and casting technologies to produce metal alloy ingots and/or components with much less energy consumption and adverse environmental impact while with improved mechanical properties and performance that will have direct impact on promoting the competitiveness of the industries in materials manufacture such as primary materials manufacturers, e.g. Alcoa, Novelis, Rio-Tinto-Alcan for Al alloys, Doncasters and Rolls-Royce for Ni superalloy casting and components.

Typical examples include applying the developed technology and guidelines to direct-chill and shape casting to manufacture products with much improved microstructure and reliability, the development of novel metal-matrix composite materials, etc. In addition, the obtained knowledge and models can be used in other research and industrial fields where cavitation is induced in a physico-chemical system. Examples of such systems can be found in many pharmaceutical, biotechnological, chemical, and food industries where ultrasonic devices are currently widely used.

All in all the cavitation-aided melt processing technologies and the manufactured materials enabled by the fundamental knowledge, numerical models and up-scaling methodology gained in this project will contribute to the improvement of the quality of life through environmental sustainability, reduced green-house effect, and the development of new products, and also strengthen the international competitiveness of UK industry.

The benefit gained from the materials manufacture sectors will be passed onto their end users through materials supply chains into many other sectors such as energy, transportation, aerospace, biomedicine, etc. The UK is particularly strong in turbine-engine and civil/military aircraft manufacture and biomedicine; and these are the typical industrial sectors that rely on many advanced materials with high value added through quantitative control of their chemistry and manufacture process by novel solidification technologies.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description A dedicated and advanced ultrasound solidification experimental apparatus was upgraded and optimised for performing in-situ solidification studies under ultrasound. Systematic experiments studies were conducted at the speciality beamlines at the Advanced Photon Source, Diamond Light Source, Swiss Light Source, BESSY II, Germany, Soleil, France and European Radiation Facility in the duration of the project. The ultrafast and/or high speed X-ray imaging techniques available at those beamlines were used to study in-situ the highly transient phenomena of ultrasonic bubble dynamics in liquid metals and semi-solid metal alloys; and the dynamic interactions between ultrasonic bubbles, acoustic flow and solidifying phases.

Numerical models for the calculation of acoustic pressure, and the velocity and pressure produced at bubble implosion and oscillation were also developed and validated against the information acquired in the in-situ experiments.

The many terabit real-time image datasets and the associated simulations provided convincing evidence and more quantitative understanding on the relationship between the evolution of ultrasonic bubbles (nucleation, oscillation and implosion) and the acoustic pressure field and the melt conditions.
The keys findings are:
(1) The cyclic forces created by the oscillating bubbles and the shock waves produced at bubble implosions are sufficient to fracture dendritic grains and intermetallic phases, for example, the Zn phases in a Bi-8%Zn alloy, Al3Ti phases in an Al-0.4%Ti alloy, metal carbides in an IN713 Ni superalloy, etc.
(2) The ultrasonic bubble induced pulse or shock wave at implosion is the dominant mechanism to enhance grain multiplication effect and therefore promote grain refinement.
(3) For primary intermetallic phases, it was found that, in the liquid state, ultrasound cavitation-enhanced heterogeneous nucleation by increasing the wetting of the heterogeneous nucleating sites is the dominant mechanism for the refinement. While, in the semisolid state where the intermetallic phases are growing, cavitation-induced fragmentation of the phases also play an important role in the refinement of intermetallic phases.
(4) The 3D structures and morphology of the metal carbides in an IN713 Ni superalloy, and those of the Fe-rich intermetallic phases in a higher Fe contained Al-5%Cu alloy were also revealed, for the first time, by the dedicated tomography experiments. The fragmentations of the metal carbides in the Ni superalloy by ultrasound implosion and oscillation were also demonstrated for the first time.
Exploitation Route The results can be directly used by R&D centres and industry for the up-scaling in the industrial processing of metallic alloy melts (casting technology). The models and fundamental knowledge developed can be used for the advances in new technologies in metallurgical and other industries. For example, together with colleagues worked in Chemical Engineering, we won an EPSRC feasibility study project and demonstrated to use ultrasound to enhance the catalytic esterification of pyrolysis bio-oil for producing bio-oil from biomass pyrolysis. The new findings are of interest for both the academic community (sonochemistry, acoustics, physical chemistry, materials science, hydraulics) and industry (metal production, manufacturing, chemical and food industry). The applied methodologies for controlling the solidification microstructure using ultrasound developed based on the results of the project will provide the industry with novel melt processing and casting technologies to produce metal alloy ingots and/or components with much less energy consumption and adverse environmental impact while improving mechanical properties and performance that will have direct impact on promoting the competitiveness of the industries in materials manufacture such as primary materials manufacturers, e.g. AMG Aluminum, and Novelis for Al alloys, Doncasters for Ni superalloy casting and components, etc.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

 
Description Research Impact: The results are directly used for the development of novel metal processing technologies for direct-chill and shape casting for achieving much improved structure. For example, EPSRC has just funded another upscaling project "Upscaling environment-friendly cavitation melt treatment (EP/R011001/1, EP/R011044/1, EP/R011095/1)", which involved the major industry players, Constellium UK Ltd, Kaiser Aluminum, Anton Paar UK Ltd. In addition, the new scientific findings output from this research is applied in another EPSRC feasibility study of "ultrasound enhanced catalytic esterification of pyrolysis bio-oil". At present, the advantages of ultrasound on the increase of processing efficiency has been demonstrated.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub 2015 Research Grant; Project title: "Feasibility study of ultrasound-enhanced catalytic esterification of pyrolysis bio-oil"
Amount £19,800 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2015 
End 08/2016
 
Description Sustainable and industrially scalable ultrasonic liquid phase exfoliation technologies for manufacturing 2D advanced functional materials (EcoUltra2D)
Amount £330,623 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R031819/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 09/2021
 
Description The EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Liquid Metal Engineering Feasibility Studies on Solidification and Casting; Project title: "Studies of nucleation controlled carbide morphology during the solidification of cast Ni superalloys"
Amount £23,800 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2014 
End 11/2014
 
Description Linked project with Brunel University (EP/L019884/1) 
Organisation Brunel University London
Department Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification Technology (BCAST)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution My team at Hull University is responsible for the tasks of (1) High speed imaging of ultrasonic bubbles and their interactions with solidifying phases and metal oxides, (2) modelling and simulation of ultrasonic bubble implosion and oscillation.
Collaborator Contribution The Brunel team (Prof Dmitry Eskin's team) is responsible for studying the refinement/activation of primary phases and substrates in bulk liquid melt; (2) Upscaling of ultrasound-assisted casting for bulk volume melt.
Impact 1. B. Wang, D. Tan, T.L. Lee, J. C. Khong, F. Wang, D. Eskin, T. Connolley, K. Fezzaa, J. Mi Ultrafast synchrotron X-ray imaging studies of microstructure fragmentation in solidification under ultrasound, Acta Materialia, Vol. 144, 1 February 2018, Pages 505-515. IF: 5.301 2. Y. Zhao, W. Du, B. Koe, T. Connolley, S. Irvine, P. K. Allan, C. M. Schlepütz, W. Zhang, F. Wang, D.G. Eskin, and J. Mi 3D Characterisation of the Fe-rich intermetallic phases in Al-5%Cu alloys by synchrotron X-ray microtomography and skeletonisation, Scripta Materialia, Vol. 146 (2018), Pages 321-326, IF: 3.747 3. F. Wang, D. Eskin, J. Mi, C. Wang, B. Koe, A. King, C. Reinhard, T. Connolley A synchrotron X-radiography study of the fragmentation and refinement of primary intermetallic particles in an Al-35Cu alloy induced by ultrasonic melt processing (2017), Acta Materialia, Vol. 141, December 2017, Pages 142-153. IF: 5.301. 4. F. Wang, D. Eskin, T. Connolley, C. Wang, B. Koe, A. King, C. Reinhard, J. Mi, In-situ synchrotron X-ray radiography observation of primary Al2Cu intermetallic growth on fragments of aluminium oxide film, Materials Letters, Vo. 213, 15 February 2018, Pages 303-305. 5. F. Wang, I. Tzanakis, D. Eskin, J. Mi, T. Connolley In-situ observation of ultrasonic cavitation-induced fragmentation of the primary crystals formed in Al alloys, Ultrasonics Sonochemistry 39 (2017) 66-76. IF: 4.218 6. F. Wang, D. Eskin, A. Khvan, K. Starodub, T. Connolley, J. Mi On the occurrence of a eutectic type-like structure in solidification of Al-Zr alloys, Scripta Materialia (2017), Vol. 133, 75-78. IF: 3.747 7. F. Wang, D. Eskin, J. Mi, T. Connolley, M. Mounib, J. Lindsay A Refining Mechanism of Primary Al3Ti Intermetallic Particles by Ultrasonic Treatment in the Liquid State, Acta Materialia 116 (2016) 354-363, IF: 5.301. 8. F. Wang, D. Eskin, T. Connoley, J. Mi Effect of ultrasonic melt treatment on the refinement of primary Al3Ti intermetallic in an Al-0.4Ti alloy, Journal of Crystal Growth, Vol. 435 (2016), Pages 24-30, IF: 1.698.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Linked project with Diamond Light Source (EP/L019825/1) 
Organisation Diamond Light Source
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution An advanced ultrasound solidification apparatus for in-situ studies of the solidification microstructures
Collaborator Contribution Expertise for synchrotron X-ray radiography and tomography experiments, and the relevant data analyses.
Impact 1. B. Wang, D. Tan, T.L. Lee, J. C. Khong, F. Wang, D. Eskin, T. Connolley, K. Fezzaa, J. Mi Ultrafast synchrotron X-ray imaging studies of microstructure fragmentation in solidification under ultrasound, Acta Materialia, Vol. 144, 1 February 2018, Pages 505-515. IF: 5.301 2. Y. Zhao, W. Du, B. Koe, T. Connolley, S. Irvine, P. K. Allan, C. M. Schlepütz, W. Zhang, F. Wang, D.G. Eskin, and J. Mi 3D Characterisation of the Fe-rich intermetallic phases in Al-5%Cu alloys by synchrotron X-ray microtomography and skeletonisation, Scripta Materialia, Vol. 146 (2018), Pages 321-326, IF: 3.747 3. F. Wang, D. Eskin, J. Mi, C. Wang, B. Koe, A. King, C. Reinhard, T. Connolley A synchrotron X-radiography study of the fragmentation and refinement of primary intermetallic particles in an Al-35Cu alloy induced by ultrasonic melt processing (2017), Acta Materialia, Vol. 141, December 2017, Pages 142-153. IF: 5.301 4. F. Wang, D. Eskin, T. Connolley, C. Wang, B. Koe, A. King, C. Reinhard, J. Mi, In-situ synchrotron X-ray radiography observation of primary Al2Cu intermetallic growth on fragments of aluminium oxide film, Materials Letters, Vo. 213, 15 February 2018, Pages 303-305. 5. F. Wang, I. Tzanakis, D. Eskin, J. Mi, T. Connolley In-situ observation of ultrasonic cavitation-induced fragmentation of the primary crystals formed in Al alloys, Ultrasonics Sonochemistry 39 (2017) 66-76. IF: 4.218 6. F. Wang, D. Eskin, A. Khvan, K. Starodub, T. Connolley, J. Mi On the occurrence of a eutectic type-like structure in solidification of Al-Zr alloys, Scripta Materialia (2017), Vol. 133, 75-78. IF: 3.747 7. F. Wang, D. Eskin, J. Mi, T. Connolley, M. Mounib, J. Lindsay A Refining Mechanism of Primary Al3Ti Intermetallic Particles by Ultrasonic Treatment in the Liquid State, Acta Materialia 116 (2016) 354-363, IF: 5.301. 8. F. Wang, D. Eskin, T. Connoley, J. Mi Effect of ultrasonic melt treatment on the refinement of primary Al3Ti intermetallic in an Al-0.4Ti alloy, Journal of Crystal Growth, Vol. 435 (2016), Pages 24-30, IF: 1.698. 9. T. Manuwong, W. Zhang, P.L.Kazinczi, A.J. Bodey, C. Rau, J. Mi (2015) Solidification of metal alloys under electromagnetic pulses and characterization of 3D microstructures using synchrotron X-ray tomography, Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A, Vol. 46 (2015), 2908 - 2915, IF: 1.730 10. D. Tan, T. L. Lee, J. C. Khong, T. Connolley, K. Fezzaa, J. Mi (2015) High speed synchrotron X-ray imaging studies of the ultrasound shockwave and enhanced flow during metal solidification processes, Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A, Vol. 46 (2015), 2851 - 2861, IF: 1.730 11. J. Mi, D. Tan, T. L. Lee (2014) In situ synchrotron X-ray study of ultrasound cavitation and its effect on solidification microstructures, Metallurgical And Materials Transactions B, 11 Dec 2014, Open Access, DOI: 10.1007/s11663-014-0256-z, IF: 1.323. 12. Y.J. Huang, J.C. Khong, T. Connolley, J. Mi (2014) The onset of plasticity of a Zr-based bulk metallic glass, International Journal of Plasticity, 60 (2014) 87-100, IF: 5.702. 13. *Y.J. Huang, J.C. Khong, T. Connolley, J. Mi (2014) Understanding the deformation mechanism of individual phases of a ZrTi-based bulk metallic glass matrix composite using in situ diffraction and imaging methods, Applied Physics Letters 104, 031912 (2014), IF: 3.794. 14. Y.J. Huang, J.C. Khong, T. Connolley, J. Mi (2013) In situ study of the evolution of atomic strain of bulk metallic glass and its effects on shear band formation, Scripta Materialia 69 (2013) 207-210.
Start Year 2011
 
Description Partnership with Doncasters Group Ltd 
Organisation Doncasters Plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Understanding and quantifying the 3D structure and morphology of metal carbide in Ni superalloys and the fragmentation of metal carbides by ultrasound implosion and oscillation.
Collaborator Contribution Providing samples and industry inputs for the collaboration
Impact (1) Won a Royal Society Industry Fellowship for Jiawei Mi in 2012 to work with Doncasters; (2) Won an EPSRC feasibility study project in 2014 ("Studies of nucleation controlled carbide morphology during the solidification of cast Ni superalloys ").
Start Year 2012