X-ray analysis of the time-softening property of a lead tin alloy

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Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute


The purpose of this thesis has been the determination of the nature and cause of time-softening property of the lead-tin alloys in the solid solution range. An alloy of 19% tin, 81% lead was chosen as exhibiting the property to a degree suitable for observation of the accompanying phenomena.

The investigation proceeded in three parts: (1) an observation of the time-softening property itself by means of series of hardness tests to determine the degree of change and the time required for its accomplishment; (2) a search for x-ray evidence of possible precipitation which might be apparent as a change in the lattice constant of the crystal; and (3) conductivity measurements as a further check on whether the solution concentration was changing.

The results accordingly may be classified under the same three headings.

The change in hardness of the lead-tin alloy under investigation is intimately related to its habit of precipitating some of the excess tin from the solid solution. Both the x-ray and the conductivity test results offer supporting evidence that precipitation does occur in conjunction with the softening effect.

Apparently also the softening effect observed in the lead-tin alloy is a definite phenomenon distinct from the “over-aging” effect in which an alloy aged at high temperature increases rapidly in hardness until a certain critical hardness is reached, after which softening sets in.