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Publication# Phase-field modeling of micropore formation in a solidifying alloy

Résumé

This thesis is focused on the study of the morphology of micropores formed during solidification of metallic alloys. Micropores constrained to form in well-developed dendritic solid network adopt complex non-spherical shapes. Previous studies using X-ray tomography (XRT) have shown that the local mean curvature of micropores can be as large as 0.2μm−1. Such a high curvature induces an overpressure of 400 kPa in the pore with respect to the surrounding liquid and thus highly affects its volume fraction. While trying to predict pore formation at the macro-scale using average equations, the effect of this curvature is usually introduced using simple mathematical relationships, i.e., pinching model, describing the pore curvature as a function of the volume fraction and a typical length scale (e.g., the secondary dendrite arm spacing or DAS) of the primary phase. Such relationships, however, are based on simplifications of the pore morphology that are not generally backed up with an extensive study of the pore shape and its evolution during solidification. On the other hand, direct observations using XRT offer valuable information about micropore morphologies after solidification, but unfortunately their limited spatial resolution does not allow yet for a detailed study of the curvature of micropores during their formation. In this work, a multiphase-field model has been developed in order to study and better understand the formation of micropores constrained to grow in a solid network (i.e., pinching effect). The model accounts for the pressure difference due to capillarity forces between liquid and gas and the mechanical equilibrium condition at triple (solid-liquid-pore) lines. The partitioning and diffusion of dissolved gases such as hydrogen in aluminum alloys are also incorporated into the model by solving together Sievert’s law, the perfect gas law and Fick’s equation. The model was first implemented in 2-D, and then was extended to 3-D by developing a program for parallel Distributed Memory Processor (DMP) machines. The model was used to study the influence of the DAS, primary phase solid fraction and gas content on the morphology of micropores. After validating the multiphase-field approach for a spherical micropore growing freely in a supersaturated liquid, the calculations show that a pore constrained to grow in a narrow liquid channel exhibits a substantially higher mean curvature, a larger pressure and a smaller volume than an unconstrained pore. The morphology of pores at steady state, obtained with the model for different solid morphologies and initial gas concentrations, was also analyzed. From their predicted 3-D morphologies, entities such as the Interfacial Shape Distribution (ISD) were plotted and analyzed. As expected, it was verified that the mean curvature of the pore-liquid interface, and thus also the pressure inside the pore, is uniform. The local morphology of the pore, however, varies depending on the position of the pore-liquid interface with respect to the primary solid: In between two parallel dendrite arms, the pore adopts a cylindrical-type shape with one principal curvature being almost nil and the other being about twice the mean curvature of the pore-liquid interface growing with a spherical-type tip in between four parallel dendrite arms. The results were then compared with analytical pinching models. While predicting a similar trend, analytical models tend to underestimate the pore curvature at high solid fraction and gas concentration. For pores spanning over distances larger than the average DAS, the simulations showed that the mean curvature varies between two limits: a minimum curvature given by the largest sphere that can be fitted in the interdendritic liquid, and a maximum curvature given by the size of the narrowest section that the pore needs to pass in order to expand. The pore curvature is therefore a complex non-monotonic function of the DAS, solid fraction, gas content and statistical variations of the liquid channel widths. Based on this and considering the complex morphology of pores reconstructed using high-resolution XRT, the present phase-field results suggest that a simple pinching model based on a spherical tip growing in between remaining liquid channels is a fairly good approximation. This model was further validated by performing phase-field calculations for a pore growing in a representative volume element taken from XRT. For such condition, it was observed that as the pore grows and penetrates thin liquid channels, the fraction of cylindrical-type pore-liquid interfaces increases and becomes dominant over spherical-type ones, a feature already observed in XRT observations of as-solidified micropores. Finally, in-situ XRT observations were also performed on Al-Cu samples directionally viii solidified in a Bridgman furnace and then quenched. Macroscopic calculations of porosity formation using the software ProCast showed that a high fraction of pores can form during the quench itself, and not so much during directional solidification. After solidification, small specimens were analyzed by XRT on the TomCat beamline of the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen, during isothermal holding at a temperature slightly above the eutectic temperature. It was shown that the volume fraction of primary solid increases during holding time, as a result of solid state diffusion of copper, while coalescence of secondary dendrite arms simultaneously modifies the topology of the remaining liquid from continuous films to isolated droplets. This topology change is shown to modify substantially the average hydrogen diffusion coefficient in the mushy zone. In parallel to the evolution of the solid-liquid interface, the number of micropores and their volume fraction change over time. This evolution is analyzed in terms of a local mass balance of hydrogen and of diffusion of hydrogen toward the ambient atmosphere.

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Porosity is one of the major defects in castings because it reduces the mechanical properties of a cast piece [1]. Porosity formation results from the effect of two concomitant mechanisms, namely solidification shrinkage and segregation/precipitation of gases [1]. A model for the prediction of microporosity, macroporosity and pipe shrinkage during the solidification of alloys has been developed at the Computational Materials Laboratory (LSMX-EPFL) [2]. This model has then been improved by taking into account the effect of various alloying elements and gases on porosity formation [3, 4, 5]. However, the modeling of two physical phenomena still needed to be improved: (i) the curvature influence and (ii) the hydrogen diffusion influence on the growth of pores. The effect of pinching, i.e. the pores are forced by the growing solid network to adopt a complex non spherical shape, induces curvature restriction to the pores. This pinching effect can be a limiting factor for the growth of pores and is too simply modeled in the model of Péquet et al. [2]. Several other pinching models exist, but a rigorous experimental study to validate either one of these models is needed. Additionally, Carlson et al. [6] have recently shown that hydrogen diffusion might also be a limiting factor for the growth of pores. In the model of Péquet et al. [2], this effect was not taken into account. This thesis is mainly aimed to (i) provide experimental results that specifically validate the pinching model developed by Couturier et al. [4], (ii) investigate the influence of hydrogen diffusion on the growth of pores and (iii) provide a new model that takes into account the pinching effect and the hydrogen diffusion influence on the growth of pores. At first, pores formed in aluminum-copper (Al-Cu) samples (cast under controlled conditions) have been analyzed using high resolution X-ray tomography. The influence of the alloy inoculant, copper content, cooling rate and initial hydrogen content on the morphology of pores has been investigated. The results show that the curvature of micropores pinched in either non-inoculated or inoculated Al-4.5wt%Cu alloys can be fairly well approximated to that of cylinders. The results also show that the pinching model must be function of (i) the volume fraction of the primary phase gα and (ii) the secondary dendrite arm spacing λ2. However, the influence of the initial hydrogen content appears to be negligible. The pinching model developed by Couturier et al. [4] accounts for these observations and their relation fits fairly well the average mean curvature value of our experimental data. A new model has been developed to calculate an effective hydrogen diffusion coefficient De(gs), that is a function of the volume fraction of solid only. For that purpose, in-situ X-ray tomography has been performed on Al-Cu alloys. For each volume fraction of solid 0.6 ≤ gs ≤ 0.9, a representative volume element of the microstructure has been obtained from the tomography data. Solid and liquid voxels being assimilated to solid and liquid nodes respectively, a hydrogen diffusion equation has then been solved numerically. Calculations have been run until steady-state was reached in order to deduce De(gs) and the simulation results were successfully compared with a new theory based on effective-medium approximations. Both approaches lead to the main conclusion that hydrogen diffusion through the solid phase cannot be neglected, unlike it is assumed in the model of Carlson et al. [6]. Next, using the pinching model of Couturier et al. [4] and the obtained De(gs), a new volume-averaged model has been developed in order to simulate the growth of pores limited by (i) the curvature of the pore phase and (ii) the diffusion of hydrogen. The results show that, although hydrogen diffusion can be a limiting factor for the growth of pores, the pinching effect has a much larger influence. Accordingly, any model for porosity prediction should carefully take into account the influence of curvature and hydrogen diffusion on the growth of pores. In order to ripen this study at a refined scale, a 2D phase-field model has been developed to describe the complex shape of a pore formed within interdendritic liquid channels [7]. The influence of the solid, which can force the pore to adopt a non-spherical shape, is taken into account through the geometry of the domain and appropriate boundary conditions. This model accounts for curvature influence and hydrogen diffusion in the liquid, two of the main aspects governing the growth kinetics of a pore. However, the model still needs to be combined with a description of the liquid flow induced by the pore growth. Basically, this model should serve as a sound basis for further developments that might lead to more sophisticated pinching models. Finally, an experimental study has been conducted in order to track the inoculant influence on the shape of pipe shrinkage. Simultaneously, pipe shrinkage calculations (using the model of Péquet et al. [2]) were performed in order to track the influence of the gs,c parameter on the shape of the pipe shrinkage. This gs,c parameter corresponds to the critical volume fraction of solid at which mass feeding stops. Comparisons between experimental and simulation results show that the gs,c parameter should be set equal to 0.6 or 0.1 for a casting simulation of an inoculated or non-inoculated alloy, respectively.

Mathematical and numerical aspects of free surface flows are investigated. On one hand, the mathematical analysis of some free surface flows is considered. A model problem in one space dimension is first investigated. The Burgers equation with diffusion has to be solved on a space interval with one free extremity. This extremity is unknown and moves in time. An ordinary differential equation for the position of the free extremity of the interval is added in order to close the mathematical problem. Local existence in time and uniqueness results are proved for the problem with given domain, then for the free surface problem. A priori and a posteriori error estimates are obtained for the semi-discretization in space. The stability and the convergence of an Eulerian time splitting scheme are investigated. The same methodology is then used to study free surface flows in two space dimensions. The incompressible unsteady Navier-Stokes equations with Neumann boundary conditions on the whole boundary are considered. The whole boundary is assumed to be the free surface. An additional equation is used to describe the moving domain. Local existence in time and uniqueness results are obtained. On the other hand, a model for free surface flows in two and three space dimensions is investigated. The liquid is assumed to be surrounded by a compressible gas. The incompressible unsteady Navier-Stokes equations are assumed to hold in the liquid region. A volume-of-fluid method is used to describe the motion of the liquid domain. The velocity in the gas is disregarded and the pressure is computed by the ideal gas law in each gas bubble trapped by the liquid. A numbering algorithm is presented to recognize the bubbles of gas. Gas pressure is applied as a normal force on the liquid-gas interface. Surface tension effects are also taken into account for the simulation of bubbles or droplets flows. A method for the computation of the curvature is presented. Convergence and accuracy of the approximation of the curvature are discussed. A time splitting scheme is used to decouple the various physical phenomena. Numerical simulations are made in the frame of mould filling to show that the influence of gas on the free surface cannot be neglected. Curvature-driven flows are also considered.

A phase-field model has been developed to describe the morphology of pores constrained by a dendritic solid network, and are forced to adopt complex non-spherical shapes. The distribution of the solid, liquid and gas phases was calculated with a multiphase-field approach which accounts for the pressure difference between the liquid and the gas. The model considers the partitioning of the dissolved gas at interfaces, gas diffusion and capillary forces at the solid/liquid, liquid/gas and gas/solid interfaces. The model was used to study the influence of the dendrite arm spacing (DAS) and the solid fraction on the state of a pore. The calculations show that a pore constrained to grow in a narrow liquid channel exhibits a substantially higher mean curvature, a larger pressure and a smaller volume than an unconstrained pore. Comparisons with simple geometrical models indicate that analytical approaches show a good trend but tend to underestimate the pore curvature, in particular at high solid fractions, where pores have to penetrate the thin liquid channels. For pores spanning over distances larger than the average DAS, the simulations showed that the radius of curvature can vary between two limits, which are given by the size of the narrowest section that the pore needs to pass in order to expand and by the largest sphere that can be fitted in the interdendritic liquid. The pore curvature is therefore a complex non-monotonic function of the DAS, the solid fraction, the hydrogen content and statistical variations of the liquid channel width. (C) 2011 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.