Continuous Cooling Transformation (CCT) Diagram of Aluminium Alloy Al-4.5Zn-1Mg
Age hardening is one of the most important processes to strengthen aluminium alloys. It usually consists of the steps solution annealing, quenching and aging. For heat treatment simulations as well as for the appropriate choice of quenching processes in heat treatment shops, knowledge of the temperature- and time-dependent precipitation behaviour during continuous cooling is required. Quenching should happen as fast as necessary to reach high strengths, but also as slow as possible, to reduce residual stresses and distortion. This optimal quenching rate of an aluminium component depends on its chemical composition, initial microstructure and solution annealing parameters as well as on its dimensions. Unfortunately continuous cooling transformation (CCT) diagrams of aluminium alloys do almost not exist. Instead isothermal transformation (IT) diagrams or given average quenching rates are used to estimate quenching processes, but they are not satisfying neither for heat treatment simulations nor for heat treatment shops. Thermal analysis, especially Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) provides an approach for CCT-diagrams of aluminium alloys, if the relevant quenching rates can be realized in the DSCequipment. The aluminium alloy Al-4.5Zn-1Mg (7020) is known for its relatively low quenching sensitivity as well as for its technical importance. The complete CCT-diagram of 7020 with cooling rates from a few K/min to some 100 K/min has been recorded. Samples have been solution annealed and quenched with different cooling rates in a high speed DSC. The resulting precipitation heat peaks during cooling have been evaluated for temperature and time of precipitation start, as well as their areas as a measure for the precipitate amount. Quenched samples have been further investigated regarding their microstructure by light and electron microscopy, hardness after aging and precipitation behaviour during re-heating in DSC. The CCT-diagram correlated very well with the microstructure, hardness and re-heating results. A critical cooling rate with no detectable precipitation during continuous cooling 155 K/min could be determined for 7020. A model to integrate the CCT-diagram in heat treatment simulation of aluminium alloys is under development.
W.J. Poole, M.A. Wells and D.J. Lloyd
O. Kessler et al., "Continuous Cooling Transformation (CCT) Diagram of Aluminium Alloy Al-4.5Zn-1Mg", Materials Science Forum, Vols. 519-521, pp. 1467-1472, 2006