Al-Ga Sacrificial Anodes: Understanding Performance via Simulation and Modification of Alloy Segregation
Kidd Jr, Michael Scott
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Marine structures must withstand the corrosive effects of salt water in a way that is low cost, reliable, and environmentally friendly. Aluminum satisfies these conditions, and would be a good choice for a sacrificial anode to protect steel structures if it did not passivate. However, various elements can be added to aluminum to prevent this passivation. Currently, Al-Ga alloys are used commercially as sacrificial anodes but their performance is not consistent. In this research, Thermo-Calc software was used to simulate various aspects of the Al-Ga system in an attempt to understand and potentially correct this reliability issue. Simulations showed that gallium segregates to the grain boundaries during solidification and then diffuses back into the grains during cooling to room temperature. Simulations also suggest that faster cooling rates and larger grains cause the potential segregation of gallium at the grain boundaries to remain after cooling. A set of aluminum plus 0.1% weight percent gallium alloy plates were produced with varying cooling rates, along with a control set (cooled slowly in a sand mold). Some samples were later homogenized via annealing. Samples were subjected to a 168 hour long galvanostatic test to assess voltage response. The corrosion performance of samples was found to have both consistent and optimal voltage range when subjected to quick cooling rates followed by annealing. Testing samples at near freezing temperature seems to completely remove optimal corrosion behavior, suggesting that there are multiple causes for the voltage behavior.
General Audience Abstract
Ships must withstand the corrosive effects of salt water in a way that is low cost, reliable, and environmentally friendly. Aluminum has properties which could allow a plate of it to rust instead of a ship it is attached to, thus protecting the ships from rusting. However, because aluminum usually does not rust, gallium can be added to aluminum to allow it to rust. Currently, aluminum-gallium alloys are used commercially to protect ships, but their performance is not consistent. In this research, various aspects of the aluminum-gallium system were simulated in an attempt to understand and potentially correct this reliability issue. Simulations showed that the gallium concentration may not be uniform in the alloy, and various conditions can cause the gallium concentration to be inconsistent. A set of aluminum-gallium alloy plates were cast in molds from liquid aluminum. Some of the plates were cooled quickly, and some cooled slowly. Some samples were later heated in an oven at high temperatures in an attempt to even out the gallium concentration. Samples were subjected to tests to observe corrosion behavior. The corrosion performance of samples was found to be best when subjected to quick cooling rates followed by the oven heating. Testing the samples in cold temperatures seemed to remove the desired corrosion behavior, suggesting that there are multiple reasons for the inconsistent corrosion behavior of aluminum gallium.
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