Using capillary electrophoresis to study the chemical conditions within cracks in aluminum alloys.


The environment-assisted cracking (EAC) susceptibility of some aluminum alloys used for airplane structural components currently limits their use in the peak strength condition. Understanding the mechanism of EAC will facilitate the development of crack-resistant alloys with optimum mechanical properties. One component towards understanding the fundamental processes responsible for EAC is a comprehensive knowledge of the chemical conditions within cracks. The present work uses capillary electrophoresis (CE) to quantify the crack chemistry in order to provide insight into the nature of the mechanism controlling cracking. The highly restricted geometry of cracks in metals means that a crack typically contains less than 10 microliters of solution. The high mass sensitivity combined with the inherently robust nature of CE makes it an ideal analytical technique for this application. Complicating factors in the accurate determination of the crack environment include high levels of sodium present from the test solution. Low sample volume and analyte matrix complexity necessitated the development of specific sampling, extraction and analysis methods. Analysis of the crack solutions in EAC-susceptible material revealed high levels of Al3+, Mg2+, Zn2+, and Cl- near the crack tip. Cations arise from the anodic dissolution of the alloy, whereas chloride ingress from the external environment occurs to maintain solution electroneutrality within the crack. In contrast, EAC-resistant material exhibited significantly lower concentrations of dissolution products.

Cite this paper

@article{Cooper1999UsingCE, title={Using capillary electrophoresis to study the chemical conditions within cracks in aluminum alloys.}, author={Kevin R. Cooper and R. G. Kelly}, journal={Journal of chromatography. A}, year={1999}, volume={850 1-2}, pages={381-9} }