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Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 6574

Tribological behavior of self-lubricating aluminium/SiC/graphite


hybrid composites synthesized by the semi-solid
powder-densication method
M.L.Ted Guo*, C.-Y.A. Tsao
Department of Materials Science and Engineering (24), National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC
Received 4 April 1998; revised version received 12 January 1999; accepted 30 July 1999

Abstract
The tribological behavior of self-lubricated aluminium/SiC/graphite hybrid composites with various amount of graphite addition
synthesized by the semi-solid powder densication (SSPD) method has been studied. As the amount of graphite increases, the
hardness and CTE of the composites decreases. Fracture toughness decreases monotonically as the graphite content increases. It
was found that the seizure phenomenon which occurred with a monolithic aluminium alloy did not occur with the hybrid composites. The amount of graphite released on the wear surface increases as the graphite content increases, which reduces the friction
coecient. Graphite released from the composites bonded onto the wear surfaces of the counter faces. However, the amount bonded is small, and X-ray mappings showed no signicant dierence in the amounts bonded for dierent graphite additions. Wear
becomes more stable, and wear debris particles become smaller as the graphite content increases, which is reected by the lower
electric contact resistance. More fracturing is shown on the wear surface of the composite with high graphite addition as a consequence of poor fracture toughness by comparison with composites with low graphite. There seems to be less abrasive wear on the
composites than on the counter faces. The wear rate of the composite increases as the amount of graphite content increases up to
5% then falls to a lower value for an 8% addition. However, the wear rate of the counter face increases as the amount of graphite in
the composites increases up to 8%. # 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: A. Metal-matrix composites; B. Fracture toughness; D. Auger electron spectroscopy (AES); D. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM);
Wear

1. Introduction
Metal-matrix composites (MMCs) possess many
advantages over monolithic materials, including higher
specic strength, good wear resistance, higher thermal
conductivity than ceramic materials, lower coecient of
thermal expansion, etc., and they have been used in the
aircraft, space, defense and automotive industries [14].
In the area of wear resistance, it is conventional to apply
a lubricant to reduce the wear. However, some wear
parts are dicult to access, making it dicult to apply
lubricant to their surfaces externally to reduce the wear.
Self-lubricated materials containing a lubricant component that can be released automatically during the wear
process have therefore become an important branch of
wear materials.
* Corresponding author. Fax: +886-6234-6290.

One of the most frequently used lubricant materials is


graphite. Several studies have focused on applications
of aluminum/graphite composites [58]. However, one
of the drawbacks in using graphite as a lubricant material has been the resulting loss in strength of the whole
composite. Therefore, in this study, hybrid Al/SiC/graphite composites have been synthesized and their wear
behavior studied. One of the advantages of the Al/SiC/
graphite composites is that they are self-lubricating
materials containing graphite lubricant, and yet their
strength is enhanced by the presence of the SiC ceramic
phase.
One of the most common processes for manufacturing MMCs is the powder metallurgy (PM) process.
However, a complete PM process may be associated
with higher costs. A new process known as semi-solid
powder densication (SSPD) was used in this study,
in which the PM and the semi-solid synthesizing (SSS)

0266-3538/00/$ - see front matter # 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S0266-3538(99)00106-2

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M.L.T. Guo, C.-Y.A. Tsao / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 6574

[914] processes were combined into an integrated netshape forming process. Aluminium powder, SiC powder
and graphite powder were mixed and heated into the
semi-solid regime of the aluminium, where the composite powders were deformed in a semi-solid state into
self-lubricating hybrid composite compacts. The
amount of graphite added was varied in order to study
its eects on the tribological behavior of the self-lubricating hybrid composites.

semi-solid densication. The mixtures were then held at


40 MPa densication pressure for 10 min to form composite compacts. After semi-solid powder densication,
the composite compacts were given a T6 heat treatment,
in which the solution treatment was done at 530 C for 2
h, followed by direct quenching into water, and the
aging treatment was done at 160 C for 20 h.

2. Experimental methods
Mixtures of 6061 aluminium powder (average powder
size: 30 mm), SiC powder (average powder size: 45 mm)
of 10 vol% (v/o), and graphite powder (average powder
size: 8 mm) of 2, 5 and 8 v/o, were mixed in a V-shape
mixer. The mixtures were then put into a graphite container of 1 0 mm in diameter  20 mm in length and
semi-solid-deformed directly.
Semi-solid powder densication was carried out with
a 10 ton Instron machine, model 1125, as shown schematically in Fig. 1. The mixtures were placed between
graphite plates. Thermocouples were attached to the
bottom of the bottom graphite plate and to the bottom
of the graphite container. A three-zone temperaturecontrolled furnace was used to control the temperature
of the mixtures with feedback from the thermocouples.
The solidus and liquidus temperatures of 6061 aluminium alloy are 582 and 652 C, respectively. The
mixtures were heated to 630 C for semi-solid powder
densication, and held for 10 min to equalize the
temperatures within the mixtures before the onset of

Fig. 2. Schematic diagram of vane-on-disk layout.

Fig. 3. Variations of composite hardness with the percentage of graphite addition.

Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of SSPD (semi-solid powder densication)


process.

Fig. 4. Variations of composite CTE with the percentage of graphite


addition.

M.L.T. Guo, C.-Y.A. Tsao / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 6574

The coecient of thermal expansion (CTE) was measured at a heating rate of 10 C/min. Vickers hardness
measurements were made with a 5 kg load. Fracture
toughness was measured by using the conventional threepoint bending test method. Wear tests were performed

Fig. 5. Eects of graphite addition on the fracture energy of the


composites obtained from three-point bending test.

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by the vane-on-disk method under dry conditions with


monolithic A356 aluminum alloy as the counter face, as
shown schematically in Fig. 2. The surface roughness of
the composites and the counter faces were Ra < 0.3 mm
and Ra <0.1 mm, respectively. A Falex 6 wear-testing
apparatus was used, and a data acquisition system was
used to read the time, torque, rpm, sliding distance, etc.
A torque meter was used to measure the friction coecient, and an ECR device was used to measure the electric contact resistivity between the specimen and the
counterface. The specimens were 10 mm in diameter
and 10 mm long. Three specimens were used in one
wear test. The load used was a constant pressure of
0.094 MPa and the sliding speed was 1.09 m/s. The total
weight of the three specimens in a test was measured
before the wear test. After testing, the total weight of
the three specimens was measured again immediately.
The resulting wear rate in 5 min of test time corresponded to the dierence between the total weights
before and after the wear test. SEM, WDS and AES
were used to analyze the wear debris and the morphologies and chemical compositions of the fracture

Fig. 6. Wear debris generated during wear process for (a) 0 v/o, (b) 2 v/o, (c) 5 v/o, and (d) 8 v/o of graphite additions.

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M.L.T. Guo, C.-Y.A. Tsao / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 6574

surfaces. The standard specimen for AES analysis was


SiO2/Si.
3. Results and discussion
The variations of composite hardness with the percentage of graphite addition are shown in Fig. 3. It is
shown that the hardness decreases as the amount of
graphite addition increases as a result of a weaker graphite phase. The CTE of graphite is anisotropic [15], in
which the CTE along the direction parallel to the basal
plane, which is a negative value, is very dierent from
that perpendicular to the basal plane, which is a positive
value. Therefore, the additions of graphite to Al/10SiC
composite may have mixed eects on the CTE of the
composites. Fig. 4 shows the variations of composite
CTE with the percentage of graphite addition, and it is
shown, in general, that the CTE decreases with the
amount of graphite addition. However, the eects of the
graphite addition on the CTE of the composites are not
signicant.

Fig. 5 shows the eects of the graphite addition on the


fracture energy of the composites obtained from threepoint bending test. It is shown that the fracture energy
decreases monotonously as the amount of graphite
addition increases. This means that the ductility of the
composite decreases as the amount of graphite addition
increases, which is evident by examining the wear debris
generated during wear process for various graphite
additions, as shown in Fig. 6. It is shown that the wear
debris for the Al/SiC composite without graphite addition is quite large, which can be as large as 2 mm wide,
and the debris becomes smaller as the amount of graphite addition increases. This decrease in the size of the
debris is mainly a result of the increase in the brittleness
of the composites as the amount of the graphite addition increases. The composite that was more brittle was
easier to fracture into smaller debris during the wear
process. Fig. 7 shows the macrographs of the fracture
surfaces of Al/10SiC composites with various graphite
additions. It is shown that most of the graphite is present in large chunky forms in each of the composites,
which contributes to the low fracture toughness. Fig. 8

Fig. 7. Macrographs of the fracture surfaces of Al/10SiC composites with (a) 0 v/o, (b) 2 v/o, (c) 5 v/o, and (d) 8 v/o of graphite additions.

M.L.T. Guo, C.-Y.A. Tsao / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 6574

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Fig. 8. Micrographs around the tips of the precracks of Al/10SiC composites with (a) 0 v/o, (b) 2 v/o, (c) 5 v/o, and (d) 8 v/o of graphite additions.

shows the corresponding micrographs around the tips


of the pre-cracks for each specimens. Both dimple and
facet morphologies are shown on the wear surfaces of
every composite, representing a mixture of ductile and
brittle fractures.
The eects of the graphite addition on the friction
coecient between the composite specimen and wear
counterpart are shown in Fig. 9. It is shown that seizure
phenomenon happened after 130 s for A356 aluminum
alloy without any SiC and Gr additions, while there was
no seizure happening for any of the composites, even
after 270 s. Therefore, the seizure resistance of the
composites is much higher than that of monolithic A356
aluminum alloy. The friction coecient decreases as the
percentage of graphite addition increases, as shown in
Fig. 10. However, it is shown that there is no signicant
dierence in friction coecient between the composite
with 5% Gr addition and that with 8% Gr addition.
The main reason for the reduction of friction coecient
for the composites with higher percentages of graphite
additions was the graphite released during the wear
process. Liu et al. [5,7] have also shown that the friction

coecient decreased as the percentage of graphite addition increased, and have found that the friction coecient of the Al/8Gr composite was about 0.5. In this
study, the average friction coecient of the Al/10SiC/
8Gr composites was about 0.844, higher than that of the
Al/8Gr composite, which is expected because of the
presence of the SiC particles. Fig. 11 shows the wavelength-dispersive spectrometry (WDS) mappings of the
carbon element for the wear surfaces of the composites
with various graphite additions. It is shown that the
amount of graphite released on the wear surface increases as the percentage of graphite addition increases.
Since the graphite acted as a solid lubricant, the friction
coecient decreased as the graphite released on the
wear surface increased. This is also evident by examining the degree of the scattering of the friction coecient
curves as shown in Fig. 9, in which the degree of the
scattering of the friction coecient curves is the largest
for the composite without any graphite addition, and
becomes smaller as the amount of graphite addition
increases, which was a result of the release of the graphite acting as the solid lubricant. Therefore, the wear

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Fig. 9. Friction coecient between the composite specimen and wear counterpart for (a) monolithic aluminum alloy, and (b) Al/SiC/Gr hybrid
composites with 0 v/o, 2 v/o, 5 v/o, and 8 v/o graphite additions.

becomes more stable as the amount of graphite addition


increases. An Auger depth prole analysis for the graphite layer generated on the wear surface of the composite with 8% Gr addition showed that the graphite
layer was about 2500 s thick (2500 s was the bombarding time of the electron beam), corresponding to a
thickness of 0.0625 mm approximately. Fig. 12 shows
the WDS mappings of the carbon element for the wear
surfaces of the wear counterparts for various graphite
additions. It is evident that the graphite released from
the composites did bond on to the wear surfaces of the
counterparts. However, it is shown that the amounts of
the graphite bonding on to the wear surfaces of the
counterparts are much smaller than those on the wear
surfaces of the composites, the reasons for which are the
following. Firstly, the wear surfaces of the counterparts
that the graphite had bonded on to wore o constantly,
becoming wear debris, which reduced the amounts of
graphite that were left on the wear surfaces of the
counterparts to be detected. Secondly, not all of the
graphite released from the composites could bond on to
the wear surfaces of the counterparts, some of which
might just fall o during the wear process without
attaching to the surfaces of the counterparts. As for the
composites, since they contained the graphite inside,
their wear surfaces should constantly exhibit roughly
the same amounts of the graphite as they contained.
Therefore, the amounts of the graphite bonding on to the
wear surfaces of the counterparts were shown smaller
than those on the wear surfaces of the composites.
Since the amounts of the graphite on the wear surfaces of the counterparts were shown to be quite small,
the dierences in the amount of graphite for dierent
graphite additions were not distinguishable from the Xray mappings, as shown in Fig. 12. Figs. 11 and 12 also

Fig. 10. Variations of friction coecient with the percentage of graphite addition.

show the wear surfaces of the composites and the


counterparts, respectively. There is more fracturing on
the wear surface of the composite with high graphite
addition than with low graphite addition, as shown in
Fig. 11, as a result of poorer fracture toughness for the
former. There seems to be less abrasive wear on the
composites than on the counterparts, caused by much
larger amounts of the graphite released on the surfaces
of the former.
Fig. 13 shows the weight loss of the composites in 5
min of wear process for various graphite additions,
which corresponds to the wear rate. The wear rate
increases as the amount of graphite addition increases
up to 5%, then drops to a lower value for 8% Gr addition. This dropping of the wear rate for 8% Gr addition
may be explained by the `composite eects' discussed
below. There were two competing factors that aected

M.L.T. Guo, C.-Y.A. Tsao / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 6574

71

Fig. 11. Wear surfaces of the composites (left), and WDS mappings of the Carbon element for the wear surfaces (right) of the composites with (a) 2
v/o, (b) 5 v/o, and (c) 8 v/o of graphite additions.

the wear rates of the composites. Firstly, as discussed


previously, the fracture toughness of the composite
decreases as the amount of graphite addition increases,
which means that the composites with higher graphite
additions were easier to fracture during wear process,
and, therefore, would have higher wear rates in this
respect. Secondly, as the amount of graphite addition

increased, there was more graphite released to the wear


surface during the wear process serving as the solid
lubricant to reduce the friction coecient. Therefore,
the composites with higher graphite additions would
have lower wear rates in this respect. These two compounded eects caused by the graphite addition were
called the `composite eects'. Up to 5% v/o graphite,

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M.L.T. Guo, C.-Y.A. Tsao / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 6574

Fig. 12. Wear surfaces of the counterparts (left), and WDS mappings of the Carbon element for the wear surfaces of the wear counterparts (right),
for (a) 2 v/o, (b) 5 v/o, and (c) 8 v/o of graphite additions.

as the amounts of graphite addition were small, the


solid-lubricant eect was relatively small. Therefore, the
fracture-toughness eect dominated, which resulted in
an increase in the wear rate as the graphite addition
increased. However, with 8% graphite addition, the
amount of graphite addition was large enough that the
eects of the solid lubricant became large enough to

dominate over the fracture-toughness eect, which


resulted in a decrease in the wear rate. Liu et al. [7] have
shown that the wear loss decreased as the percentage of
graphite addition increased up to 50 v/o. In this study,
the addition of SiC particles into the composites apparently had signicant eects on the tribological behavior
of the composites which, however, caused initial

M.L.T. Guo, C.-Y.A. Tsao / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 6574

73

the wear process became smaller as the amount of graphite addition increased, as shown in Fig. 6, and the
wear became more stable as the amount of graphite
addition increased, as indicated by the degree of the
scattering of friction coecient in Fig. 9.
4. Conclusions

Fig. 13. Weight loss of the composites and the counterparts in 5 min
of wear process for various graphite additions.

increase of the wear loss as the percentage of graphite


addition increased up to 5 v/o, which was mainly caused
by the brittle behavior of both the SiC particles and the
interface between the SiC particles and the matrix.
Fig. 13 also shows the weight loss of the counterparts
in 5 min of wear process for various graphite additions,
which corresponds to the wear rate. The wear rate
increases as the amount of graphite addition in the
composites increases. As the amount of graphite addition in the composites increased, the fracture toughness
decreased, and more debris, which contained hard SiC
particles, was generated during the wear process which,
in turn, caused more severe abrasive wear on the counterparts, as shown in Fig. 12. Nevertheless, the wear
rates of the counterparts are much lower than those of
the composites. This is because the fracture toughnesses
of the composites are much lower than those of the
counterparts, which are monolithic A356 aluminum
alloys. Therefore, the composites were much easier to
fracture during the wear process, resulting in muchhigher wear rates than for the counterparts. However,
the wear rate of the counterpart for 8% Gr addition
does not reduce from that for 5% Gr addition, as it
does for the composites, the reasons for which follow.
The amounts of the graphite bonding on the wear surfaces of the counterparts are much smaller than those
on the composites, and are almost the same for dierent
graphite additions, as shown in Figs. 11 and 12. As a
result, the amount of the graphite on the wear surface of
the counterpart for even 8% Gr addition was the same
as those for 2 and 5% Gr additions, which was too
small to provide adequate lubrication to the wear surface of the counterpart to reduce the wear rate.
It was found that the electric contact resistance
becomes smaller as the amount of graphite addition
increases. This was because the debris generated during

1. Hardness and CTE decrease with the amount of


graphite addition
2. Fracture energy decreases monotonously as the
amount of graphite addition increases.
3. Seizure occurred for aluminum alloy, but no seizure
occurred for AI/SiC and AI/SiC/Gr composites.
4. Friction coecient decreases as the percentage of
graphite addition increases.
5. Amount of the graphite released on the wear surface increases as the percentage of graphite addition increases.
6. Graphite released from the composites did bond
on to the wear surfaces of the counterparts. However, the amount bonded is small, and there is no
signicant dierence in the amounts bonded for
dierent graphite additions.
7. Wear becomes more stable as the amount of graphite addition increases.
8. Wear debris become smaller as the amount of
graphite addition increases.
9. More fracturing is shown on the wear surface of
the composite with high graphite addition than
with low graphite addition. There seems to be less
abrasive wear on the composites than on the
counterparts.
10. Wear rate of the composite increases as the
amount of graphite addition increases up to 5%
Gr addition, then drops to a lower value for 8%
Gr addition.
11. Wear rate of the counterpart increases as the
amount of graphite addition in the composites
increases up to 8% Gr addition.
12. Electric contact resistance becomes smaller as the
amount of graphite addition increases.
Acknowledgements
Support from the National Science Council under
grant no. NSC830424-E-006-025 and NSC84-2212-E006-054 is gratefully acknowledged.

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