Ageless Aluminum-Cerium-Based Alloys in High-Volume Die Casting for Improved Energy Efficiency
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Strong chemical reactions between Al and Ce lead to the formation of intermetallics with exceptional thermal stability. The rapid formation of intermetallics directly from the liquid phase during solidification of Al-Ce alloys leads to an ultrafine microconstituent structure that effectively strengthens as-cast alloys without further microstructural optimization via thermal processing. Die casting is a high-volume manufacturing technology that accounts for greater than 40% of all cast Al products, whereas Ce is highly overproduced as a waste product of other rare earth element (REE) mining. Reducing heat treatments would stimulate significant improvements in manufacturing energy efficiency, exceeding (megatonnes/year) per large-scale heat-treatment line. In this study, multiple compositions were evaluated with wedge mold castings to test the sensitivity of alloys to the variable solidification rate inherent in high-pressure die casting. Once a suitable composition was determined, it was successfully demonstrated at 800 lbs/h in a 600-ton die caster, after which the as-die cast parts performed similarly to ubiquitous A380 in the same geometry without requiring heat treatment. This work demonstrates the compatibility of Al REE alloys with high-volume die-casting applications with minimal heat treatments.
This research was sponsored by the Critical Materials Institute, an Energy Innovation Hub funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Advanced Manufacturing Office, Eck Industries, and TTE Casting Technologies.
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