By means of the end-quenching technique, we investigated the relationship between quenching rate and hardness as well as exfoliation corrosion rating for Al-2.21 Zn-3.59 Mg-0.45 Cu-0.038 Zr (at%) alloy plate. In order to achieve an exfoliation corrosion rating of P or EA, the quenching rate must be greater than approximately 460 °C/min and 300 °C/min, respectively, and the drop degree in hardness should simultaneously be lower than approximately 2.0% and 3.5%, respectively. The results of microstructural and microchemical examination using a scanning transmission electron microscope indicate that a lower quenching rate leads to a higher content of Zn, Mg, and Cu in the grain-boundary particles and a greater width of precipitate-free zones near grain boundaries; therefore, grain-boundary particles with Zn and Mg contents less than approximately 13.39% and 10.23% (at%), respectively, and precipitate-free zones near grain boundaries with widths less than about 107 nm can contribute to an exfoliation corrosion rating better than EA. The amount of quench-induced η-phase particles, which lead to lower hardness, increases with decreasing quenching rate, and the area fraction of these particles is approximately 2.9% at a quenching rate of 300 °C/min.
Al-Zn-Mg-Cu alloy microstructure hardness test corrosion STEM
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