Role of nucleation and growth in two-phase microstructure formation
During the directional solidification of peritectic alloys, a rich variety of two-phase microstructures develop, and the selection process of a specific microstructure is complicated due to the following two considerations. (1) In contrast to many single phase and eutectic microstructures that grow under steady state conditions, two-phase microstructures in a peritectic system often evolve under non-steady-state conditions that can lead to oscillatory microstructures, and (2) the microstructure is often governed by both the nucleation and the competitive growth of the two phases in which repeated nucleation can occur due to the change in the local conditions during growth. In this research, experimental studies in the Sn-Cd system were designed to isolate the effects of nucleation and competitive growth on the dynamics of complex microstructure formation. Experiments were carried out in capillary samples to obtain diffusive growth conditions so that the results can be analyzed quantitatively. At high thermal gradient and low velocity, oscillatory microstructures were observed in which repeated nucleation of the two phases was observed at the wall-solid-liquid junction. Quantitative measurements of nucleation undercooling were obtained for both the primary and the peritectic phase nucleation, and three different ampoule materials were used to examine the effect of different contact angles at the wall on nucleation undercooling. Nucleation undercooling for each phase was found to be very small, and the experimental undercooling values were orders of magnitude smaller than that predicted by the classical theory of nucleation. A new nucleation mechanism is proposed in which the clusters of atoms at the wall ahead of the interface can become a critical nucleus when the cluster encounters the triple junction. Once the nucleation of a new phase occurs, the microstructure is found to be controlled by the relative growth of the two phases that give rise to different oscillatory microstructures that depend on the imposed velocity and the size of the sample.;At low thermal gradient to velocity ratio, a steady-state composite microstructure is observed. Two mechanisms of composite microstructure formation were examined: (i) the formation of the peritectic phase in the intercellular region of the primary phase where the solute rejected by the primary phase is absorbed by the peritectic phase. The peritectic phase forms a small distance behind the growing primary phase front. (ii) The second mechanism is the coupled growth of the two phases with a macroscopically planar interface, as in the case of eutectic growth. Detailed studies showed that this composite microstructure, although it appears as a eutectic microstructure, did not grow in the coupled manner at the advancing interface in the Sn-Cd system. However, a new observation was made when experiments were carried out in thin ampoule of Ta. The peritectic phase nucleated at the wall-interface triple junction and grew along the wall, while the primary phase continued to grow at the center, giving rise to a steady-state couple growth at some specific velocity. The mechanism of coupled growth in this case was shown to be operative due to the presence of a finite contact angle at the wall, and this was demonstrated by including the contact angle effect at the wall in the rod eutectic growth model.;The experimental results were summarized to map out the conditions of thermal gradient and velocity on the regimes of composite and oscillatory microstructure formation. The formation of complex time-dependent microstructures was then discussed in terms of the time-dependent dynamics of planar interface growth.