Posted on February 20, 2016

1. An overview

The Center for Advanced Materials (CAM) at Qatar University (QU), Doha, Qatar is an internationally recognized research center dedicated to innovative, multidisciplinary and cutting edge research in the field of materials science and engineering. CAM management and researchers emphasizes strong industry-university partnership which enables to achieve applicable scientific advancements, feasible economic solutions, and social development in the State of Qatar.

In addition to basic research and development, the scientists, researchers and students at CAM are also actively interacting with experts from local industries. These experts participate in various industrial research projects at CAM. Moreover, the scientists and researchers at CAM are also extending their consultancy services to the local industries. This is advantageous in finding appropriate solutions in the fields of material synthesis/processing, structure, properties and applications. One such association is with Qatalum in Mesaieed.

Qatar Aluminium (Qatalum) is a primary aluminium producing company located in Mesaieed, Qatar. Qatalum’s Casthouse is internationally recognized and produces ISO certified premium value added alloys and extrusion ingots. In 2014 Qatalum’s Casthouse produced in excess of 640,000 metric tons per year with exports since start-up to more than 52 countries.

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Importantly, the 6xxx (Al-Mg-Si) series of aluminum alloys constitute an important family of wrought aluminum alloys which is widely used in engineering applications. The 6xxx alloy series is most commonly used for extrusion purposes. These are also heat treatable alloys and are the most commonly used to extrude shapes and parts for many applications. The 6060/6061 alloys have medium strength and can be easily extruded; they are strong enough to be used to produce complicated cross-sections/shapes. These alloys have decent formability during bending in the T4 condition. Typical applications of 6060/6061 alloys include extrusions for windows and doors, lighting, awnings, handrails and furniture. The 6060 series has also been proven quite attractive for anodizing to form coatings both for decorative and protective reasons.

2. Problem Stated

The officials from Qatalum Casthouse said, “The 6xxx series of aluminum alloys contains “Mg” and “Si” as alloying additions. Therefore, the solidification process during ingot formation and/or subsequent extrusion process may lead to the formation of equilibrium phase “Mg2Si” (β-phase) into the microstructure. The amount and distribution of Mg2Si in 6060/6061 alloys is known to have a significant influence on their mechanical properties. More specifically, the high amount of Mg2Si usually results in poor extrude ability which limits the use of 6060/6061 series of aluminum alloys to manufacture various parts/components and thus may have an adverse effect on the business”.

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3. Research Methodology

Recently, a team of QU scientists (Dr. Abdul Shakoor, Ahmed Bahgat Radwan, Fareeha Ubaid), students (Ameera Fahmi, Amara Rehman, Yumna Lutfi) and experts from Qatalum Casthouse (Dr. Mufeed Odeh, Dr. Stian Tangen, Dr. Steinar Benum) has been actively investigating/quantifying the nucleation of Mg2Si (β-phase) in 6060/6061 aluminum alloys and its effect on mechanical properties.

Dr. Abdul Shakoor, the lead researcher of the project at CAM (QU), explained to our reporter, “The nucleation of “Mg2Si” in 6060/6061 alloys is influenced by many heat treatment parameters such as (i) the homogenization temperature (ii) the soaking time and (iii) the cooling. This means a careful control of the above mentioned heat treatment parameters may help to understand the origin nucleation of “Mg2Si” into the microstructure. Thus, this will also enable us to control its proportion in the final microstructure. This study will help control the amount of nucleation of Mg2Si in the final product and thus ensure trouble extrusion of 6060/6061 alloys”.

The samples of 6060/6061 alloys are being investigated by students (Ameera Fahmi, Amara Rehman, Yumna Lutfi) at CAM (QU) under different heat treatment conditions. Dr. Stian from Qatalum Casthouse further added, “After the above mentioned hea treatments, all samples will be characterized by the students to study the crystal structure, morphology of phases present and the mechanical properties using XRD, Optical/SEM and microhardness testing techniques, respectively. Special attention will be paid to carefully quantify the amount of Mg2Si precipitates present in the microstructure employing prescribed procedure. At the end of project the correlation between the amount of Mg2Si and mechanical properties of 6060/6061 alloys will be established”.

The students (Ameera Fahmi, Amara Rehman, Yumna Lutfi) from CAM (QU confidently told reporter, “This research will enable us to keep the Mg2Si contents in the final product to the desired level ensuring trouble free extrusion. This will eventually ensure high quality of the produced alloys and thus help to strengthen/expand the business more efficiently”).