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Spinodal Decomposition Versus Classical Gamma-Prime Nucleation in a Nickel-Base Superalloy Powder: An In-Situ Neutron Diffraction and Atomic-Scale Analysis

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Document pages: 38 pages

Abstract: Contemporary powder-based polycrystalline nickel-base superalloys inherit microstructures and properties that are heavily determined by the thermo-mechanical treatments during processing. Here, the influence of a thermal exposure alone to an alloy powder is studied to elucidate the controlling formation mechanisms of the strengthening precipitates using a combination of atom probe tomography and in-situ neutron diffraction. The initial powder comprised a single-phase supersaturated γ only; from this, the evolution of γ-prime volume fraction and lattice misfit was assessed. The initial powder notably possessed elemental segregation of Cr and Co and elemental repulsion between Ni, Al and Ti with Cr; here proposed to be a precursor for subsequent γ to γ-prime phase transformations. Subsolvus heat treatments yielded a unimodal γ-prime distribution, formed during heating, with evidence supporting its formation to be via spinodal decomposition. A supersolvus heat treatment led to the formation of this same γ-prime population during heating, but dissolves as the temperature increases further. The γ-prime then reprecipitates as a multimodal population during cooling, here forming by classical nucleation and growth. Atom probe characterisation provided intriguing precipitate characteristics, including clear differences in chemistry and microstructure, depending on whether the γ-prime formed during heating or cooling.

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