Microstructural Engineering of Titanium-Cellulose Nanocrystals Alloys via Mechanical Alloying and Powder Processing

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Virginia Tech


Titanium been used industrially for nearly a century. Ever since it was first reduced to its elemental form, concerted efforts have been made to improve the material and to reduce the cost of production. In this thesis, titanium is mechanically alloyed with cellulose nanocrystals followed by powder consolidation and sintering to form a solid titanium metal matrix composite. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) were chosen as the particle reinforcement as they are a widely abundant and natural material. Additionally, the nanocrystals can be derived from waste materials such as pistachio shells. This offers a unique advantage to act as a green process to enhance the mechanical properties of the titanium as well as to reduce to cost of production.

Vibrational milling using a SPEX 8000M mill was used to mechanically alloy titanium powder with varying concentrations of CNCs. Additionally, the milling time was varied. This process showed that varying the concentrations of CNCs between 0.5% - 2% by weight did not noticeably alter the microstructural or mechanical properties of the materials. Conversely, changing the milling time from 0.5 hours to 5 hours proved to greatly alter the microstructural and mechanical properties of the titanium matrix metal composites. Further increasing the milling time to 10 and 25 hours caused the materials to become exceedingly brittle thus, the majority of experiments focused on samples milled between 0.5 hours and 5 hours. The hardness values for the Ti-1%CNC materials increased from 325-450-600-800 for the samples milled for 0.5, 1, 2, and 5 hours respectively. The other concentrations used were found to yield similar values and trends. SEM micrographs showed that small precipitates had formed within the grains except materials milled at 5 hours, which showed the production of very coarse particles at the grain boundaries.

Similarly, an attrition mill was used to mechanically alloy titanium with varying CNC concentrations. Milling time was also varied. The powders were consolidated, sintered and characterized. It was found that increasing CNC content at low milling times caused a reduction in hardness. The X-ray diffractograms also showed a trend in that the diffraction patterns shifted to the lower angle with increasing CNC concentration, thereby suggesting that the increase in CNC content facilitated the removal of oxygen atoms housed within the interstitial sites. The oxygen was observed to diffuse and precipitate platelet titanium dioxide particles. These particles were found to be located within the titanium grains and coarsened with milling time. Generally, increasing the milling time to 15 hours was found precipitate particles at the grain boundaries as well as to excessively dissolve oxygen into the titanium lattice leading to embrittlement. The materials milled for 5 hours showed the best increase in strength while maintaining good ductility.



Titanium, Metal Matrix Composites, Cellulose Nanocrystals, Particulate Reinforcement, Mechanical Alloying