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Publication numberUS3591362 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJul 6, 1971
Filing dateMar 1, 1968
Priority dateMar 1, 1968
Also published asDE1909781A1, DE1909781B2, DE1909781C3
Publication numberUS 3591362 A, US 3591362A, US-A-3591362, US3591362 A, US3591362A
InventorsJohn S Benjamin
Original AssigneeInt Nickel Co
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Composite metal powder
US 3591362 A
Abstract  available in
Images(13)
Previous page
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Claims  available in
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

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JOHN S. Bevan/ v Wu. POM!) July 6, 1971 Filed March 1, 1968 J. S. BENJAMIN COMPOSITE METAL POWDER 13 Sheets-Sheet 18 INVENTOR. dorm 5 gem/mm United States Patent 3,591,362 COMPOSITE METAL POWDER John S. Benjamin, Sutfern, N.Y., assignor to The International Nickel Company, Inc., New York, N.Y. Filed Mar. 1, 1968, Ser. No. 709,700 Int. Cl. B22f 9/00 US. Cl. 75.5BA 20 Claims ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE A wrought composite metal powder, or mechanically alloyed metal powder, is provided comprised of a plurality of constituents, at least one of which is a metal capable of being compressively deformed, the composite powder being preferably in the heavily cold worked condition, i.e., having substantially the saturation hardness for the system involved, the particles thereof being characterized metallographically by a cohesive internal structure comprised of the starting constituents intimately united together and identifiably mutually interdispersed.

This invention relates to the production of wrought composite metal particles for use in the production of powder metallurgy products and, in particular, to a heavily cold worked composite metal powder in which particles thereof are comprised of a plurality of interdispersed constituents intimately united together, at least one of which constituents is a metal capable of being compressively deformed.

The present invention is directed to a new and improved process whereby many alloy systems can be made readily and economically available in the form of a composite metal powder, including simple and complex alloy systems, precipitation-hardenable alloy systems, dispersion strengthened metal systems, immiscible metal systems, and even cermet-type compositions containing a dispersion strengthened metal matrix.

The invention is based on the discovery that certain wrought composite metal powders provide unexpected and advantageous properties and/or structures, and have internally interdispersed therein a plurality of constituents without resorting to the use of elevated temperature diffusion processes, chemical co-precipitation and reduction processes, or the like processes.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a mechanically alloyed metal powder comprising a plurality of constituents, at least one of which is a metal having the characteristic of being compressively deformable.

Another object is to provide a mechanically alloyed metal powder of substantially saturation hardness which metallographically is characterized by a microstucture comprising a plurality of mutually interdispersed constituents, at least one of which is a metal which is compressively deformable.

A further object is to provide a wrought composite metal powder comprising at least two metals of limited solubility internally interdispersed within substantially each composite metal particle.

A still further object is to provide a mechanically alloyed metal powder characterized metallographically by a striated structure.

The invention also provides as an object a coarse mechanically alloyed metal particle comprising internally a plurality of substantially mutually interdispersed constituents, at least one of which is a metal which is compressively deformable, at least one other constitutent being a non-metal.

It is a further object of the invention to provide mechanically alloyed metal powders having a superalloy composition providing simultaneously precipitation hardening and dispersion strengthening.

These and other objects and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following description when taken in conjunction with the drawing, in which:

FIG. 1 depicts schematically a ball charge in a kinetic state of random collision;

FIG. 2 is a schematic representation of an attritor of the stirred ball mill type capable of providing agitation milling to produce composte metal particles in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 3 is illustrative of dry milling curves showing the variation in hardness of composite metal particles of Ni-ThO as a function of milling time for two types of dry milling devices;

FIG. 4 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 750 diameters depicting the microstructure of a wrought nickel-thoria composite metal particle produced in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 5 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 750 diameters illustrating the structure of a particle from the same batch of material depicted in FIG. 4 after the powder has annealed in argon for 16 hours at FIG. 6 is a reproduction of a photograph taken at 750 diameters showing the structure of a wrought product produced by hot extruding the powder shown in FIG. 4;

FIG. 7 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 750 diameters of hot extruded thoriated nickel alloy produced in the same manner as the material of FIG. 6 except that the composite metal powder employed was milled for a longer time;

FIG. 8 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 750 diameters showing the structure of the alloy depicted in FIG. 7 after cold swaging to provide a reduction in areas of FIG. 9 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 750 diameters of a thoriated nickel-chromium-alumimum-titanium alloy powder milled in argon;

FIG. 10 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at diameters showing in longitudinal section a microstructure of a thoriated complex superalloy made from powder produced in accordance with the invention after heat treatment at 2250 F. for 4 hours in argon followed by furnace cooling;

FIG. 11 is a reproduction of an electron photomicrograph taken at 10,000 diameters of a surface replica of the thoriated complex superalloy shown in FIG. 10;

FIG. 12 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 100 diameters of composite metal particles of thoriated nickel-chromium-aluminum-titanium alloy after milling for about 16 hours in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 13 is the same as FIG. 12 except that the photomicrograph is taken at 1000 diameters;

FIG. 14 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 100 diameters of the material shown in FIG. 12 after a milling time of about 48 hours;

FIG. 15 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph of the same material of FIG. 14 taken at 1000 diameters after a milling time of about 48 hours;

FIG. 16 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 100 diameters of wrought composite metal particles of iron-copper after milling in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 17 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 750 diameters of the same material shown in FIG. 16;

FIG. 18 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 100 diameters of wrought composite metal particles of iron-copper similar to FIG. 16 except that the milling time is three times that employed in producing the particles illustrated in FIG. 16;

FIG. 19 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 750 diameters of the same material shown in FIG. 18;

FIG. 20 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at diameters of wrought composite metal particles of copper-lead after milling in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 21 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph of the same material shown in FIG. but taken at 750 diameters;

FIG. 22 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 100 diameters of wrought composite metal particles of lead-copper similar to FIG. 20 except that the milling time is three times that employed in producing the particles illustrated in FIG. 20; and

FIG. 23 is a reproduction of a photomicrograph taken at 750 diameters of the same material shown in FIG. 22.

Generally speaking, the present invention is directed to the production of wrought composite metal particles wherein a plurality of starting constituents in the form of powders, at least one of which is a compressively deformable metal, are intimately united together to form a mechanical alloy within individual particles without melting any one or more of the constituents. By the term mechanical alloy is meant that state which prevails in a composite metal particle produced in accordance with the invention wherein a plurality of constituents in the form of powders, at least one of which is a compressively deformable metal, are caused to be bonded or united together by the application of mechanical energy in the form of a plurality of repeatedly applied compressive forces sufficient to vigorously work and deform at least one deformable metal and cause it to bond or weld to itself and/or to the remaining constituents, be they metals and/or non-metals, whereby the constituents are intimately united together and identifiably codisseminated throughout the internal structure of the resulting composite metal particles.

As more fully discussed hereinafter, the mechanically alloyed metal particles have a characteristic high hardness of a substantially saturation level; i.e., the hardness level for the system involved beyond which further working does not substantially increase the hardness of the particles. Substantial saturation hardness is particularly useful in conjunction with metal systems having melting points exceeding about 600 K., e.g., metal systems having melting points exceeding 1000 K.

The process employed for producing mechanically alloyed particles comprises providing a mixture of a plurality of powdered constituents, at least one of which is a compressively deformable metal, and at least one other constituent is selected from the group consisting of a nonmetal and another chemically distinct metal, and subjecting the mixture to the repeated application of compressive forces, for example, by agitation milling under dry conditions in the presence of attritive elements maintained kinetically in a highly activated state of relative motion, and continuing the dry milling for a time sufiicient to cause the constituents to comminute and bond or weld together and codisseminate throughout the resulting metal matrix of the product powder. This occurs when the mechanically alloyed powder particles reach substantially the saturation hardness level. The mechanical alloy produced in this manner is characterized metallographically by a cohesive internal structure in which the constituents are intimately united to provide an interidspersion of comminuted fragments of the starting constituents. The particles are produced in a heavily cold worked condition and exhibit a microstructure characterized by closely spaced striations.

It has been found particularly advantageous in obtaining optimum results to employ agitation milling under high energy conditions in which a substantial portion of the mass of the attritive elements is maintained kinetically in a highly activated state of relative motion However, the milling need not be limited to such conditions 4 so long as the milling is sufi'iciently energetic to result in substantially saturation hardness.

As will be appreciated, in processing powders in accordance with the invention, countless numbers of individual particles are involved. Similarly, usual practice requires a bed of grinding media containing a large number of individual grinding members, e.g., balls. Since the particles to be contacted must be available at the collision site between grinding balls or between grinding balls and the wall or mill or container, the process is statistical and time dependent.

One of the attributes of the type of high energy working employed in carrying out the invention is that some metals normally considered brittle when subjected to conventional working techniques, e.g., hot or cold rolling, forging, and the like, are capable of being deformed when subjected to impact compression by energized attritive elements in an attritor mill. An example is chromium powder which was found to exhibit cold workability and compressive deformability when subjected to milling in accordance with the method of the invention. Compressively deformable metals are capable of exhibiting a true compressive strain (2,) as determined by the relationship e =ln(t /t) where ln=natural logarithm, t =original thickness of the fragment and t final thickness of the fragment, well in excess of 1.0, e.g., 1.0 to 3.0 or even much more.

AGITATION MILLING By the term agitation milling, or high energy milling is meant that condition which is developed in the mill when sufiicient mechanical energy is applied to the total charge such that a substantial portion of the attritive elements, e.g., ball elements, are continuously and kinetically maintained in a state of relative motion. For optimum results, it has been found advantageous to maintain a major portion of the attritive elements out of static contact with each other; that is to say, maintained kinetically activated in random motion so that a substantial number of elements repeatedly collide with one another. It has been found advantageous that at least about 40%, e.g., 50% or 70% or even or more, of the attritive elements should be maintained in a highly activated state. While the foregoing preferred condition usually does not prevail in a conventional ball mill in which a substantial portion of the ball elements is maintained in static bulk contact with each other, it is possible to employ such mills in carrying out the invention provided there is sufiicient activation of attritive elements in the cascading zone and also, provided the volume ratio of attritive elements to the charge is large, for example, 10 to 1 and higher, e.g., 18 to 1.

The composite metal particles produced in accordance with the invention exhibit an increase in hardness with milling time.

For optimum results, the amount of cold work is that beyond which further milling does not further increase the hardness, this hardness level having been referred to hereinbefore as saturation hardness.

As illustrative of one type of attritive condition, reference is made to FIG. 1 which shows a batch of ball elements 10 in a highly activated state of random momentum by virtue of mechanical energy applied multidirectionally as shown by arrows 11 and 12, the transitory state of the balls being shown in dotted circles. Such a condition can be simulated in a vibratory mill. Another mill is a high speed shaker mill oscillated at rates of up to 1200 cycles or more per minute wherein attritive elements are accelerated to velocities of up to about 300 centimeters per second (cm./sec.).

A mill found particularly advantageous for carrying out the invention is a stirred ball mill attritor comprising an axially vertical stationary cylinder having a rotatable agitator shaft located coaxially of the mill with spaced agitator arms extending substantially horizontally from the shaft. A mill of this type is described in the Szegvari U.S.

Pat. No. 2,764,359 and in Perrys Chemical Engineers Handbook, 4th edition, 1963, at pp. 8 to 26. A schematic representation of this mill is illustrated in FIG. 2 of the drawing which shows in partial section an upstanding cylinder 13 surrounded by a cooling jacket 14 having inlet and outlet ports 15 and 16, respectively, for circulating a coolant, such as water. A shaft 17 is coaxially supported within the cylinder by means not shown and has horizontal extending arms 18, 19 and 20 integral therewith. The mill is filled with attritive elements, e.g., balls 21, sufficient to bury at least some of the arms so that, when the shaft is rotated, the ball charge by virtue of the agitating arms passing through it is maintained in a continual state of unrest or relative motion throughout the bulk thereof.

The dry milling process of the invention is statistical and time dependent as well as energy input-dependent, and milling is advantageously conducted for a time sufficient to secure a substantially steady state between the particle growth and particle comminution factors, as well as particle hardness. If the specific energy input rate in the milling device is not suflicient, such as prevails in conventional ball milling practice for periods up to 24 or 36 hours, a compressively deformable powder will generally not change in apparent particle size. At a slightly higher energy input level, sufficient to promote welding but not fracture of metal particles, the metal powder charge tends to cake and/ or weld to the inside of the device and to the grinding medium. It is accordingly to be appreciated that the energy input level should advantageously exceed that required to achieve particle growth, for example, by a factor of 5, 10 or 25, such as described for the attritor mill hereinbefore. In such circumstances, the ratio of the grinding medium diameter to the average particle diameter is large, e.g., 50 times or more, and preferably is 250 times or more. Thus, using as a reference a mixture of carbonyl nickel powder having a Fisher subsieve size of about 2 to 7 microns mixed with about 2.5% by volume of less than 0.1 micron thoria powder, the energy level in dry milling in the attritor mill, e.g., in air, should be sufficient to provide a maximum particle size in less than 24 hours. Upon further milling, the powder should gradually decrease in average size. A mill of the attritor type with rotating agitator arms and having a capacity of holding one gallon volume of carbonyl nickel balls of plus A inch and minus /2 inch diameter with a ball-to-powder volume ratio of about 20 to l, and with the impeller driven at a speed of about 180 revolutions per minute (r.p.m.) in air, will provide the required energy level. When dry milled under these energy conditions without replacement of the air atmosphere, the average particle size of the reference powder mixture will increase to an average particle size of between about 100 to 125 microns in about 24 hours. Further dry milling under the same energy conditions resulted in a gradual reduction in average particle size to about 40 to about 80 microns as grinding continued from 24 to about 72 hours. A conventional ball mill loaded with the same weight of nickel balls and substantially the same ball-to-powder loading generally accomplishes a mixing of the powders with some incidental flattening of the nickel powders and negligible change in product particle size after up to 24 or 36 hours grinding in air.

Attritor mills, vibratory ball mills, planetary ball mills, and some ball mills depending upon the ball-to-powder ratio and mill size, are capable of providing energy input within a time period and at a level required in accordance with the invention. In mills containing grinding media, it is preferred to employ metal or cermet elements or balls, e.g., steel, stainless steel, nickel, tungsten carbide, etc., of relatively small diameter and of essentially the same size. The volume of the powders being milled should be substantially less than the dynamic interstitial volume between the attritive elements, e.g., the balls, when the attritive elements are in an activated state of relative motion. Thus, referring to FIG. 1, the dynamic interstitial volume is defined as the sum of the average volumetric spaces S between the balls while they are in motion, the space between the attritive elements or balls being sufficient to allow the attritive elements to reach sufficient momentum before colliding. In carrying out the invention, the volume ratio of attritive elements to the powder should advanta geously be over about 4 to 1 and, more advantageously, at least about 10 to 1, so long as the volume of powder does not exceed about one-quarter of the dynamic interstitial volume between the attritive elements. It is preferred in practice to employ a volume ratio of about 12 to 1 to 50 to 1.

By working over the preferred volume ratio of 12 to 1 to 50 to l on a powder system in which at least one constituent is a mechanical alloying workable metal, a high degree of cold welding is generally obtained where the deformable metal powder has a melting point above 600 K. and, particularly above 1000 K. In addition, wrought products produced from the powders exhibit highly improved properties. Milling tends to increase the particle size and, as the particle size increases, the composition of each particle approaches the average composition of the starting mixture. An indication that satisfactory operating conditions have been achieved is the point at which a substantial proportion of the product powders, e.g., 50% or 75% or or more, have substantially the average composition of the starting mixture.

The deformable metals in the mixture are thus subjected to a continual kneading action by virtue of impact compression imparted by the grinding elements, during which individual metal components making up the starting powder mixture become comminuted and fragments thereof are intimately united together and become mutually interdispersed to form composite metal particles having substantially the average composition of the starting mixture. As the particles begin to work harden, they become more susceptible to attrition so that there is a concomitant building up and breaking down of the particles and a consequent improvement of dispersion. The comminuted fragments kneaded into the resulting host metal particle will generally have a dimension substantially less than that of the original metal powders. Refractory hard particles can be easily dispersed in the resulting particle at interparticle spacings of less than one micron, despite the fact that the starting powder might have been larger in size, e.g., 5, 10 or more microns.

The product powders produced in accordance with the invention have the advantage of being non-pyrophoric, i.e., of not being subject to spontaneous combustion when exposed to air. Indeed, the product powders are sufficiently large to resist substantial surface contamination when exposed to air. Thus, in general, at least about 75 of the product particles will be 10 microns or 20 microns or greater in average particle diameter. The particles generally range in shape from substantially equiaxed to thick flaky particles having an irregular outline and an average low surface area per unit weight, i.e., a surface area not greater than about 6000 square centimeters per cubic centimeter of powder. Because the constituents are intimately and densely united together, there is very little, if any, internal porosity within the individual product particles. The product particles may have a size up to about 500 microns with a particle size range of about 20 to about 200 microns being more common when the initial mixture contains a major proportion of an easily deformable metal, such as an iron group metal, copper and similar deformable metals. The relatively large particle size and low surface area which characterize the composite particles is an outstanding advantage in powder metallurgy processes requiring vacuum degassing for removing adsorbed or absorbed gases. The significance of this advantage becomes particularly marked when it is considered that certain fine metal particles absorb as much as 10 times the volume of gas present in the interstitial spaces between the powder particles. Individual phases present in the product particle as comminuted fragments derived from constituent particles present in the initial powder mixture retain their original chemical identity in the mechanically alloyed product powder. The individual starting constituents can be identified by standard analytic means including, for example, X-ray diffraction, the electron probe analyzer, etc. The integrity of the mechanically alloyed product particles is such that the hardness thereof can usually be determined on the particles through the use of a standard diamond indenter employed in usual microhardness testing techniques. In contrast thereto, powder particles loosely sintered or agglomerated together by conventional techniques will usually collapse or fragment under the influence of a diamond indenter, The composite product powder produced in accordance with the invention, on the other hand, is characterized by a dense, cohesive internal structure in which the starting constituents are intimately united together, but still identifiable.

Referring again to the reference mixture of carbonyl nickel powder mixed with about 2.5 volume percent of thoria (less than 0.1 micron) in an attritor mill, tests have shown that substantial interdispersion and particle growth is achieved when a composite metal particle is produced exhibiting an increase in cold worked hardness of at least about 50% of the difference between the ultimate saturation hardness of the product particle and the base hardness of the composition as determined by extrapolating hardness data to zero grinding time. More preferably, it has been found advantageous that the microhardness of the composite metal powder be at least about 75% of the difference between the ultimate saturation hardness and the extrapolated hardness.

Referring to FIG. 3, two curves are shown relating Vickers microhardness to time of milling as determined for two types of grinding mills. Both hardness curves A and B were obtained by dry milling a charge of carbonyl nickel powder having an average Fisher subsieve size of 3 to 5 microns mixed with thoria having a particle size of less than 0.1 micron, except that curve A was obtained by milling the mixture at an 18 to 1 volume ratio of ballsto-powder charge in a high energy stirred ball mill attritor of the type shown in FIG. 2, while curve B was obtained by milling the same mixture, with the same ball-to-charge ratio, in a lower energy ball mill. Referring to curve A, it will be noted that a saturation hardness of approximately 650 Vickers is achieved after about 16 hours of dry milling in the high energy stirred ball mill attritor; whereas, with respect to curve B (a lower energy ball mill with an 18 to l ball-to-charge ratio), approximately the same saturation hardness of about 650 Vickers is achieved after about 190 hours by dry milling. It will be noted that both curves extrapolate to a base hardness at zero time of above about 300 Vickers. It will be further noted from the two curves that about one-half of the hardness increase is achieved in the case of the high energy mill (curve A) in about 8 hours, and in the case of the lower energy mill (curve B) in about 100 hours, 75% of the hardness increase being achieved in the mills in about 10 hours and 140 hours, respectively. As stated hereinbefore, the requirement of high energy milling as applied to the foregoing nickel-thoria system as a reference, is met when a wrought composite metal powder of the system can be produced in about 100 hours and. more advantageously, within about 24- hours, having a hardness increase of at least about 50% of substantially the maximum hardness increase capable of being achieved by dry milling for that reference system. In the ball mill run with a ball-topowder ratio of 18 to 1, the data are given on the basis of loose powder found in the mill at the end of the run.

While the saturation hardness in curve A remains substantially constant from about 16 to over 160 hours, further changes may take place in the composite metal powder during milling beyond 24 hours which in many cases are beneficial. For example, after saturation or maximum hardness is reached and, likewise, the maximum particle 8 size, further grinding begins to reduce the average size of the composite metal particle, during which the internal structure of the composite metal particles improves in homogeneity in that the intimately united constituents tend to be finer and more closely spaced.

When the initial metal particles have melting points of at least 600 K. and, more preferably, at least 1000 K., substantial cold working of the resulting composite or cold welded particles is found to result from the reduction in thickness. This cold working effect promotes fracture and/or comminution of the cold welded particles by action of the milling media. Thus, particles of larger size in the initial mixtures are comminuted or reduced in size. Cold welding of particles, both of original particles and cold welded particles occurs with accumulation of material on the particles being milled. This latter factor contributes to desired particle growth and the overall comminution and/or fracture of cold welded particles contributes to size reduction of the particles. As the dry milling proceeds, the average particle size of the milled particles tends to become substantially stabilized with a decrease in both the amount of subsize particles and the amount of oversize particles and with continued refinement of the internal structure of individual milled particles. Individual components of the powder mixture being milled become comminuted and fragments thereof become intimately united together and dispersed through the matrix of the product powder. The net result of the complex milling process is a destruction of the original identity of the metal powders being milled and the creation of new composite product powders; however, the original constituents are still identifiable. The product powder particles comprise comminuted fragments of the initial metal powders welded or metallurgically bonded together, with the dimension across the comminuted fragments being usually less than one-fifth or preferably less than one-tenth the average diameter of the initial metal powder from which the fragment was derived, e.g., less than 10 microns or less than 5 microns or even less than 1 micron, e.g., 0.01 or 0.02 or 0.05 to 1 micron. Refractory particles included in the initial powder mixture become mechanically entrapped in and distributed throughout the individual product powder particles in a fine state of dispersion approximately equal to the minimum dimension of the aforementioned fragments. Thus, the refractory particle interparticle distance is much less than the particle diameter of the initial metal powder and can be less than 1 micron, in which case there are essentially no dispersoid-free islands or areas.

Again, with reference to powder mixtures having metallic components melting over 600 K. or higher, and preferably at l000 K. or higher, it is found that the hardness increase during milling apparently substantially exceeds that obtained in the same metal cold worked by other means, e.g., by rolling, forging, and the like, to reduce the thickness without intermediate annealing. Thus, a pellet of carbonyl nickel cold reduced 90% by compression with grinding of cracked edges between re duction stages was found to have a hardness of about 250 Vickers whereas carbonyl nickel powder at about S-micron size dry milled in an attritor mill, i.e., a stirred ball mill of a one gallon size with a charge of carbonyl nickel pellets about A inch in diameter and an impeller speed of 176 r.p.m. and a ball-to-powder ratio of 18 to 1 exhibited a saturation hardness of 475 Vickers as determined after 24 hours milling time. The Vickers hardness readings obtained on powders as described herein represent the average of 10 reliable readings obtained on dense particles mounted in a standard microspecimen mounting plastic and polished fiat.

It is to be appreciated that the saturation hardness for each system dry milled in accordance with the invention will be a characteristic thereof and is dependent upon composition. Systems containing refractory particles have substantially higher saturation hardnesses than the same system devoid of, or substantially devoid of, such particles. For example, the saturation hardness of a nickel-2.5 volume percent thoria system was determined to be about 640 to 650 Vickers hardness as against a Vickers hardness of about 475 for the same nickel without thoria.

As applied to a dispersion-hardened system comprising carbonyl nickel powder mixed with 2.5 volume percent of fine thoria, dry milled in the attritor mill using an 18 to 1 ball-to-powder ratio, the cold working effect has been traced by means of X-ray line broadening (CuK tat-radiation) in which the width of the 111 peak for nickel was measured at one-half the height. Saturation was observed after hours milling time at a fl-value 20) of about 0.5 determined from the formula 8= /B -b wherein B is the peak width at half height for the nickel-thoria system and b is the peak width at half height for the same nickel powder unprocessed and without thoria. The foregoing technique may be advantageously employed in tracing the mechanical alloying effect of dry milling on such systems as nickel-chromium, nickelcopper, iron-copper, lead-copper, and the like.

It is important that the milling process be conducted in the dry state and that liquids be excluded from the milling environment since they tend to prevent cold welding and particle growth of metal powder. The presence of liquid ingredients in the powder mixture being milled, e.g., water or organic liquids such as methyl alcohol, liquid hydrocarbons, or other liquids, with or without surface active agents such as stearic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid, aluminum nitrate, etc., effectively inhibits welding and particle growth, promotes comminution of the metal constituents of the mix and inhibits production of composite particles. Moreover, wet grinding tends to promote the formation of flakes which should be avoided. The fine comminuted metal ingredients also tend to react with the liquid, e.g., alcohol, and the greatly increased surface area resulting inhibits extraction of absorbed gas under vacuum. Generally, very fine particles tend to be produced which are susceptible to contamination on standing in air or may even be pyrophoric. A virtue of dry milling is that in many cases, air is a suitable gas medium. Alternatively, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, argon and helium and mixtures of these gases can also be employed. When the inert gases argon and helium are employed, care should be taken to eliminate these gases from the product powder mixture prior to final consolidation thereof by powder metallurgy methods. Inert gas media tend to enhance product particle growth and may be of assistance when powder mixtures containing active metals such as aluminum, titanium, etc., are. being milled. Preferably, the milling temperature does not exceed about 150 F., particularly when oxidizable ingredients such as aluminum, titanium, etc., are present in the powder mixture being milled. Generally, the temperature is controlled by providing the mill with a water-cooled jacket such as shown in 'FIG. 2.

COMPOSITE METAL SYSTEMS The invention is applicable to the. treatment of a wide variety of metal systems having starting particle sizes ranging from about 2 microns to about 500 microns or even up to about 1000 microns. The particles should not be so fine as to be pyrophorically active. Coarse particles will tend to break down to smaller sizes during the initial stages of dry milling after which particle growth occurs during formation of the composite metal particle.

As stated hereinbefore, the powder mixture may comprise a plurality of constituents so long as at least one of which is a metal which is compressively deformable. In order to achieve the results of the invention, the ductile metal should, in general, comprise at least about 15%, preferably at least about or even 50% or more by volume of the total powder composition. Where two or more compressively deformable metals are present, it is to be understood that these metals together should comprise at least about 15% by volume of the total powder composition.

The metal systems may range from the well known simple binary alloys to the more complex alloys. The simple alloys may have relatively low melting points, e.g., lead-base, zinc-base, aluminum-base, magnesium-base, or medium melting points, such as copper-base and the like alloys; or relatively high melting points, such as nickelbase, cobalt-base; iron-base, refractory metal-base, and the like alloys, just so long as the compressively deformable metal is at least about 15% by volume of the total composition.

The invention is particularly applicable to those de formable metals having an absolute melting point of over 600 K. and, more preferably, over 1000 K., as such metals are capable of being heavily worked with the milling process. With regard to lower melting metals, which tend to be self-annealing under heavy working conditions at substantially ambient temperature, these can be processed with other metals at ambient temperatures to produce useful wrought composite metal powder. On the other hand, where the need calls for it, such metals can be processed at below their recrystallization temperature by working at substantially below ambient temperatures.

Examples of the more complex alloys that can be pro.- duced by the invention include the well known heat resistant alloys, such as alloys based on nickel-chromium, cobalt-chromium, and iron-chromium systems containing one or more of such alloying additions as molybdenum, tungsten, columbium and/or tantalum, aluminum, titanium, zirconium, and the like. The alloying constituents may be added in their elemental form or, to avoid contamination, from atmosphere exposure, as master alloy or metal compound additions wherein the more reactive alloying addition is diluted or compounded with a less reactive metal such as nickel, iron, cobalt, etc. Certain of the alloying non-metals, such as carbon, silicon, boron, and the like, may be employed in the powder form or added as master alloys diluted or compounded with less reactive metals. The master alloy may be prepared under protective conditions such as those provided by vacuum or inert gas melting in proportions to provide a brittle intermetallic compound with the less reactive metal. The compound can then be reduced to powder by conventional crushing and grinding with a concomitant substantial reduction in the reactivity of the reactive elements and with little contamination. Thus, stating it broadly, rather complex alloys, not limited by considerations imposed by the more conventional melting and casting techniques, can be produced in accordance with the invention over a broad spectrum of composition whereby to produce alloys having melting points exceeding 1000 K. based on iron nickel, cobalt, columbium, tungsten, tantalum, copper, molybdenum, chromium, or precious metals of the plati num group.

Alternatively, the simple or more complex alloys can be produced with uniform dispersions of hard phases, such as refractory oxides and refractory carbides, nitrides, borides, and the like. Refractory compounds which may be included in the powder mix include oxides, carbides, nitrides, borides of such refractory metals as thorium, zirconium, hafnium, titanium, and even such refractory oxides of silicon, aluminum, yttrium, cerium, uranium, magnesim, calcium, beryllium and the like. The refractory oxides generally include the oxdies of those metals whose negative free energy of formation of the oxide per gram atom of oxygen at about 25 C. is at least about 90,000 calories and whose melting point is at least about 1300 C. The hard phases may range over a broad range to produce cermet compositions so long as sufiicient ductile metal is present to provide a host matrix for the hard phase or dispersoid. Where only dispersion strengthening or wrought compositions is desired, such as in high temperature alloys, the amount of dispersoid may range from about 0.5% to 25% by volume and, more advantageously, from about 0.5% to or by volume.

The invention is particularly applicable to the production of high temperature heat resistant alloys falling within the following broad ranges, to wit: alloys containing by weight up to about 65% chromium, e.g., about 5% to 30% chromium, up to about 8% aluminum, e.g., about 0.5% to 6.5% aluminum, up to about 8% titanium, e.g., about 0.5% to 6.5% titanium, up to about 40% molybdenum, up to about 40% tungsten, up to about columbium, up to about tantalum, up to about copper, up to about 2% vanadium, up to about 15% manganese, up to about 2% carbon, up to about 1% silicon, up to about 1% boron, up to about 2% zirconium, up to about 0.5% magnesium and the balance essentially at least one iron group metal (iron, nickel, cobalt) with the sum of the iron group metals being at least 25%, with or without dispersion-strengthening constituents such as thoria, ranging in amounts from about 0.5% to 10% by volume of the total composition.

As stated hereinbefore, the metal systems of limited solubility that can be formulated in accordance with the invention may include lead-copper with the lead ranging, for example, from about 1% to 95% by weight and the balance substantially copper; copper-iron with the copper ranging from about 1% to 95%; copper-tungsten with the copper ranging from about 5% to 98% and the balance substantially tungsten; silver-tungsten with the silver ranging from about 2% to 98% and the balance substantially tungsten; chromium-copper with the chromium ranging from about 5% to 95% and the balance substantially copper, and the like. Where the system of limited solubility is a copper-base or silver-base material, the second element, e.g., tungsten, chromium and the like, may be employed as dispersion strengtheners. Where the elements of limited solubility are substantially compressively deformable in their own right, composite metal particles containing these elements may be produced Over a substantially broad range of composition.

In producing mechanically alloyed metal particles from the broad range of materials mentioned hereinbefore, the starting particle size of the starting metals may range from about over 1 micron up to as high as 1000 microns. It is advantageous not to use too fine a particle, particularly where reactive metals are involved. Therefore, it is preferred that the starting particle size of the metals range from about 3 microns up to about 200 microns.

The stable refractory compound particles may, on the other hand, be maintained as fine as possible, for example, below 2 microns and, more advantageously, below 1 micron. A particle size range recognized as being particularly useful in the production of dispersion strengthened systems is 10 angstroms to 1000 angstroms (0.001 to 0.1 micron).

In working with metals which melt above 1000 K., the substantially saturation hardness imparted to the composite metal particle is particularly advantageous in the production of alloys and dispersion strengthened metals and alloys. Observations have indicated that substantial saturation hardness increases effective diffusion coefficients in the products powder. The factor, along with the intimate mixture in the product powder of metal fragments from the initial components to provide small interditfiusion distances, promotes rapid homogenization and alloying of the product powder upon heating to homogenizing temperatures. The foregoing factors are of particular value in the production of powder metallurgy articles having rather complex alloy matrices. The heavily cold worked nature of the product powder generally necessitates a homogenizing or annealing treatment prior to processing into powder metallurgical products. The treatment is conducted at temperatures of at least about of the absolute melting point to homogenize and/or anneal the cold worked powder, or, for example, from about to 80% of the absolute melting point, for a time period of at least about 15 minutes, or from about 30 to about 60 minutes under protective conditions such as that provided by a vacuum, hydrogen, argon, helium, etc. Homogenization and/or annealing can be accomplished, for example, during the heating of canned powders prior to extrusion. Homogenized and/ or annealed alloy powders produced in accordance with the invention can be processed in conventional powder metallurgy equipment. In many instances, it may only be necessary in obtaining improved pressability to subject the powder to a heat treatment at a temperature only sufficient to stress relieve or partially soften the major metal constituent of the composite particle without obtaining complete homogenization and without any substantial sintering of the particles. Temperatures on the order of at least 45% of the absolute melting point of the major metal constituent are necessary to achieve this desirable effect.

In the production of alloyed powders for usual powder metallurgy purposes, amounts of oxygen up to about 1% by weight, preferably not exceeding about 0.5% oxygen may be tolerated. In the production of dispersion-hardened materials, oxygen in the initial material mix in forms other than the refractory oxide dispersoid is more harmful and such oxygen accordingly should not exceed about 0.2% by weight and preferably should not exceed about 0.1% by weight.

In order to give those skilled in the art a better understanding of the invention, the following illustrative examples are given:

Example I A charge consisting of 1,173 grams of carbonyl nickel powder having an average Fisher subseive size of 3 to 5 microns with 27 grams of thoria having a particle size of about 50 angstroms was preblended in a high speed food blender (Waring Blendor) and was then dry milled in air for 24 hours in a stirred vertically upstanding, water-jacketed attritor mill of the type illustrated schematically in FIG. 2. The mill contained a one gallon volume of carbonyl nickel shot or balls of average diameter of about one-quarter inch and operated at an impeller speed of about 176 r.p.m. The volume ratio of the ball to the powder charge was 18 to 1. Upon completion of the milling, the powder was separated from the attritive elements and occasional coarse particles removed from the powder. The powder which had a saturation hardness of about 640 to 650 Vickers was placed in a mild steel extrusion can and evacuated to a pressure of less than O.l micron of mercury at 400 C. The can was then sealed, heated to 1800 F. and extruded at an extrusion ratio of 16 to l. The extruded product contained a fine, stable dispersion of thoria. Light microscopy and electron microscopic examination of surface replicas revealed that the metal grains in the metal were less than 5 microns in size with the bulk of the grains being less than 1 micron and that the thoria particle size was less than 0.2 micron with most of the thoria being about 200 angstroms. The structure of a particle of the thoriated nickel powder in the as-milled condition was similar to that depicted in FIG. 4 of the drawing.

The properties of the material in the as-extruded condition and after various amounts of cold swaging are given in the following Table I:

TAB LE I Hot ultimate tensile strength (p.s.i.) as extruded and after cold swaging (per- NoTE.-p.s.i.=pounds per square inch; R.A.=reduetion in area.

In contradistinction to the foregoing, a charge consisting of 977.5 grams carbonyl nickel powder having an average Fisher subsieve size of 3 to 5 microns with 22.5 grams of thoria having a particle size of about 50 angstroms was dry milled in air for six hours in the same mill as in Example I using a running speed of 146 r.p.m. Four batches were prepared in the same manner at a ball-to-powder weight ratio of 22 to 1 and 2,000 grams of the product accumulated from which occasional coarse particles were removed. The powder was similarly hot extruded under the same conditions as in Example I. The extruded product contained a fine, stable dispersion of thoria. Light microscopy and electron microscopic examination of surface replicas revealed that the metal grains in the metal were less than 10 microns in size and that the thoria particle was less than 0.2 micron. The structure of a particle of the thoriated nickel powder in the as-milled condition is depicted in FIG. 4 of the drawing. The average particle size of the milled powder was less than 74 microns. A portion of the powder depicted in FIG. 4 was annealed in argon for 16 hours and the structure of an annealed particle is depicted in FIG. 5, wherein the fine grained areas are those in which a good thoria distribution was achieved in the six hour milling time. In these areas the grain sizes are less than 1 micron. In areas wherein poor distribution of thoria was obtained due to the short milling time and low milling speed, the grain size is on the order of 1 microns. The dark spots and lines are holes associated with carbon and oxygen impurities in the starting material. A portion of the as-extruded material was cold worked 22% by bar rolling and the properties of the as-extruded and cold worked material were determined by the short-time tensile test at various temperatures with the results set forth in the following Table (II:

TABLE II Yield strength Tensile Test 0.2% ofistrength, EL, R.A., temp., F. Condition set, k.s.i. k.s.i. percent percent Room As extruded.-. 92. 9 110. 19. 0 60. 5 1,400 .-do 14. 1 14. 1 14. 0 38. 5 1,400-. Cold Worked 16. 7 17. 6 16. 5 29. 0 1,800 As extruded 5. 4 8. 7 10. 9 11. 6 1,800 Cold worked 7. 3 13. 6 7. 2 11.2 As extruded--- 4. 8 6. 9 9. 0 16. 0

NorE.-k.s.i.=thousands of pounds per square inch; El.=elongation.

As a further comparison, the procedure of Example I was repeated using a 2,200 gram batch of powder with a milling time of 24 hours in air in the same attritor mill running at a speed of 184 r.p.m. The ball-to-powder volume ratio in this instance was about 10 to 1. Material from this batch was hot extruded and the structure of the as-extruded material is depicted in FIG. 7 taken at 750 diameters. The internal structure of the composite metal particle was similar to that obtained in Example I in that the thoria-free areas which were depicted in FIG. 6 were eliminated. The as-extruded tensile strength of this material at 2000 F. was 7,400 pounds per square inch (p.s.i.) A portion of the as-extruded material was then cold swaged to reduce the cross sectional area thereof 75%. After the cold swaging treatment, the tensile strength of the material at 2000 F. was raised to 15,000 p.s.i. The structure of the as-extruded cold swaged material at 750 diameters is depicted in FIG. 8 of the draw- As illustrative of the use of the invention in producing superalloys, the following additional examples are given:

14 Example II A nickel-titanium-aluminum master alloy was prepared by vacuum induction melting. The resulting ingot was heated at 2200 F. for 16 hours in air, cooled to room temperature and crushed and ground to minus 325 mesh powder. The powder (Powder A) contained 72.93% nickel, 16.72% titanium, 7.75% aluminum, 1.55% iron, 0.62% copper, 0.033% carbon, 0.050% A1 0 and 0.036% TiO About 14.9 weight percent of this powder was blended with 62.25% carbonyl nickel powder having a Fisher subsieve size of about 5 to 7 microns, 19.8% chromium powder having a particle size passing 200 mesh and 3.05% of thoria having a particle size of about 400 angstroms. The nickel and thoria were preblended in the Waring Blendor. About 1300 grams of the powder blend were dry milled in the attritor mill described in Example I using one gallon of plus inch carbonyl nickel pellets or balls, at a ball-to-powder volume ratio of about 17 to 1, and an argon atmosphere for 48 hours with an impeller speed of 176 r.p.m. The striated structure of powder from this batch is shown in FIG. 9 taken at 750 diameters. Two batches of powder were sieved to remove small amounts of abnormally large particles, i.e., plus 45 mesh. Optical microscopic examination of the product powder demonstrated excellent interdispersion of ingredients in composite powder particles. The powder, which analyzed 73.86% nickel, 19.3% chromium, 2.16% titanium, 1.19% aluminum, 0.017% carbon, less than 0.05% copper, 2.93% thoria, also contained only 0.015% A1 0 and 0.013% T102 and other negligible impurities, showing that the content of extraneous oxides was very low. About 2,040 grams of minus 45 mesh, plus 325 mesh powder were placed in a stainless steel extrusion can, evacuated to a pressure of 2 10 millimeters of mercury at 350 C. and sealed. The assembly was heated to 2150 F. and extruded with an extrusion ratio of 16 to 1. The sound extruded bar was found to respond to precipitation hardening after a solution anneal for 16 hours at 1200 C. and aging for 16 hours at 705 C. The extruded material contained thoria in an intimate state with an inter-particle spacing of less than 1 micron and with an average thoria particle size of about 0.04 micron. The solution treatment lowered the hardness from 275 Vickers for the as-extruded product to 235 Vickers. This latter hardness may be compared to a hardness range for a conventionally produced, solution-treated age hardenable, nickel-base, high temperature alloy of about 200 to 250 Vickers having essentially the same matrix composition of the foregoing extruded alloy. Aging the thoria-containing alloy for 16 hours at 705 C. (1300 F.) increased the hardness to 356 Vickers which compares favorably with the hardness range of 290 to 370 Vickers for the comparison alloy, except that the alloy produced in accordance with the invention is further enhanced as to its load-carrying capability at elevated temperatures by virtue of the presence of a uniform dispersion of ultra-fine thoria.

Example III Another thoriated complex superalloy was also produced in which both gamma prime strengthening and thoria dispersion strengthening were successfully demonstrated, despite the fact that normally the ingredients employed in formulating the composition are quite reactive. A nickel-aluminum-titanium-molybdenum-columbium-zirconium-carbon-boron master alloy was prepared by vacuum induction melting. The resulting ingot was heated to 2200 F. for 16 hours in air, crushed and ground to minus 325 mesh powder. The powder (Powder B) contained 67.69% nickel, 8.95% molybdenum, 5.70% columbium, 15.44% aluminum, 1.77% titanium, 0.053% carbon, 0.06% zirconium, and 0.01% boron. About 39.5 weight percent of this powder was blended with 45.74% carbonyl nickel powder having a Fisher subsieve size of about 5 microns, 11.64% chromium powder having a

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Classifications
U.S. Classification428/570, 75/255, 148/401, 419/35, 419/31, 241/46.17, 241/172, 241/27, 75/956, 75/354
International ClassificationC22C1/10, B22F9/02, C22C1/05, C22C19/05, B22F9/04, B22F1/00, C22C1/04, C22C32/00, C22C33/02
Cooperative ClassificationC22C1/1084, C22C32/0026, Y10S75/956, C22C33/02, C22C1/0433, B22F2009/043, B22F9/04, C22C32/0015
European ClassificationC22C1/04D, B22F9/04, C22C32/00C, C22C33/02, C22C32/00C4, C22C1/10F