Microstructural studies of wear mechanisms in cast aluminum alloys.

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name



Electrical and Computer Engineering


Engineering, Materials Science.




The microstructural basis of wear and surface degradation mechanisms in Al-Si alloys has been investigated in order to improve the current understanding of the requirements for wear resistant aluminum alloy design. The wear behaviour of three commercial alloys namely: a sand cast A390 (Al-18.4%Si), a spray formed Al-25%Si, and a die cast 383 (Al-9.5%Si) have been investigated. Dry sliding wear tests were performed using a block on ring type tribometer under controlled environments. The experiments were performed in a load range between 0.2 N and 300 N at a constant speed of 1 m/s. The testing environments were a dry air (5% RH), a humid air (95% RH), and an argon atmosphere. In dry air (5% RH), two main wear regimes namely, mild wear (MW), and severe wear (SW) were identified. The (MW) regime consisted of two sub-regimes: first and second regimes of mild wear, (MW-1) and (MW-2). The mild wear was controlled by the formation and destruction (spallation) of hardened tribolayers composed of Fe, Al, Si, and O which gave rise to steady state wear rates in both sub-regimes. The transition to second sub-regime was attributed to the destabilization and partial removal of the tribolayers on the contact surfaces. Severe wear occurred at loads exceeding 150 N irrespective of the alloy when the contact surface temperature reached a critical value (210-240°C). The wear rates (W) in each sub-regime of the MW obeyed the relation, W=CLn, where C and n were the wear coefficient and the wear exponent, respectively. The wear exponents, n, were similar in each of the sub-regimes for all three alloys, indicating that the same mechanisms controlled the wear rates. However, the wear coefficients, C, and the transition loads to the second sub-regime were considerably different for each alloy. A method of analyzing the wear coefficients and the transition loads of the alloys, based on pair-wise comparison between them, was developed. This method demonstrated that small equiaxed silicon particles, high alloy hardness, and high silicon content promoted a better wear resistance in the Al-Si alloys by delaying MW-1 to MW-2 transition, and reducing the wear coefficients. Wear tests performed on A390 in air with 95% RH and in argon atmospheres resulted in a 10-fold reduction of wear rates and formation of an ultra mild wear (UMW) regime at loads less than 10 N. UMW in an argon atmosphere was due to the formation of highly deformed Al-(Si) tribolayers, which were less brittle and were not removed as easily as Fe-Al-Si-O tribolayers formed in dry air (5% RH). UMW of A390 samples could be also achieved in dry air (5% RH) when the tests were performed against a diamond-like carbon (DLC) coated counterface at loads less than 10 N. The analysis showed that DLC reduced the wear and friction significantly through preventing the formation of Fe rich oxidized tribolayers and Al transfer to the counterface.Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis2005 .E46. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 66-11, Section: B, page: 6210. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 2005.