Atomic Pillar-Based Nanoprecipitates Strengthen AlMgSi Alloys

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Atomic-resolution electron microscopy reveals that pillarlike silicon double columns exist in the hardening nanoprecipitates of AlMgSi alloys, which vary in structure and composition. Upon annealing, the Si2 pillars provide the skeleton for the nanoparticles to evolve in composition, structure, and morphology. We show that they begin as tiny nuclei with a composition close to Mg2Si2Al7 and a minimal mismatch with the aluminum matrix. They subsequently undergo a one-dimensional growth in association with compositional change, becoming elongated particles. During the evolution toward the final Mg5Si6 particles, the compositional change is accompanied by a characteristic structural change. Our study explains the nanoscopic reasons that the alloys make excellent automotive materials.

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