Journal of Minerals & Materials Characterization & Engineering, Vol. 11, No.4, pp.353-363, 2012 Printed in the USA. All rights reserved
Role of Heat Treatment on A l6061- Frit Particulate Composites
D. Ramesh1, R. P. Sw a my2, T.K. Chandrashekar3
1Research scholar, Sri Siddhartha Institute of Technology, Tumkur-572105, India
2 Department of studies in Mechanical Engineering,
University B.D.T. College of Engineering, Davangere-577004, India
3 Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Sri Siddhartha Institute of Technology, Tumkur-572105, India
*Corresponding Author:
In recent decades, aluminium alloy based metal matrix composites are used in several
applications. Al6061 has been used as matrix material due to its good formability, excellent
mechanical properties and etc., wide spectrum of the applications in industrial sectors.
Inclusion of Frit particulates as reinforcement in Al6061 alloy material system improves its
hardness and decrease in density. In the present investigation Al6061-Frit particulate
composites were produced by ‘VORTEX’ method with varying weight percentages of Frit
particulate from 0 wt% to 10 wt% in steps of 2.The as cast matrix alloy and its composites
have been subjected to solutionizing treatment at a temperature of 5300C for 2 hours
followed by quenching in different media such as air, water and ice. The q uenched specimens
were subjected to artificial ageing. Aged specimens were subjected to ultra-sonic test using
ultra-sonic flaw detector testing apparatus to identify the common casting defects like
porosity, blow holes. Macrostructure and microstructure studies were conducted on as cast
and composites in order to investigate the distribution of frit particles retained in matrix
material system. Micro structural studies were carried out to understand nature of structure.
Density measurement was carried out on both Al6061matrix alloy and Al6061-Frit
particulate composite. Hardness tests have been conducted both on Al6061 matrix alloy and
Al6061-Frit particulate composite before and after heat treatment. It has been observed
under identical heat treatment conditions adopted, Al6061-Frit particulate composites
exhibited significant improvement in hardness when compared with Al6061 alloy.
Keywor d s: MMC’s, Solutionizing, Ageing, Density, Hardness.
354 D.Ramesh, R.P.Swamy, T.K.Chandrashekar Vol.11, No.4
Metal matrix composites are gaining wide popularly in several sectors due to its improved
mechanical properties (and lighter density) when compared with metals/alloys, especially in
applications where weight and strength are of prime importance. Al/Al alloy based metal
matrix compo sites are widel y used. Al all oy based MMC are bei ng used as a m aterial s ystem
in several applications such as Pushrods, cylinder, piston and brake disc etc. [1]. In last
decade among all the aluminium alloys, Al6061 is (popular) admired as matrix material
system in development of MMC’s owing to its good corrosion resistance and excellent
mechanical properties [2]. Al6061 alloy is heat treatable and as a result further increase in
strength c an be ex pected [ 3-5], major focus is on processing and characterization of Al based
MMC’s were reported. [ 6-8]. The type of reinf orcement and syner gic effect of heat treatm ent
plays a prevailing (dominant) role command in the final mechanical properties of MMC’s
meager information is available, pertaining to the heat treatment of Al based composites. In
light of the above the present investigation is aimed at studying the effect of quenching media
and ageing duration on the hardness property of Al6061 matrix alloy and Al6061-Frit
particulate composites.
Heat treatment is an operation in the fabrication of an engineering materials system. The
main objective of heat treatment is to make the material system structurally and physically fit
for engineering application [9]. Solution heat treatment of aluminium alloys allows the
maximum concentration of hardening solute to dissolve into solution. This process is
careful ly carried ou t by heat treatm ent of an allo y to a t emperature at w hich one si ngle, solid
phase exists. By this heat treatment, the solute atoms that were originall y part of a two phase
solid solution dissolve into solution and originates (create) as one single phase. Once the
alloy has been heated to the recommended solutionizing temperature, it is quenched at a rapid
rate such that the solute atoms don’t have enough time to precipitate out of the solution. As a
result of the quench, a super saturated solution now exists between solute and aluminium
matrix [10, 11].
Quenching is the process of rapid cooling of material systems to room temperature to
preserve the solute in solution. The cooling rate needs to be fast enough to prevent solid-state
diffusion and precipitation of the phase. The rapid quenching creates a saturated solution and
allows for i ncreas ed h a rd n ess and m echan ical pr o pert i es o f th e mat eri al system. In additi on to
this studies have shown that the highest degree of corrosion resistance have been obtained
through the maximum rates of quenching [12]. Quenchin g takes pl ace in th ree dist inct s tages,
namely vapour blanket stage, Boiling stage and liquid cooling stage. The vapour blanket
stage begin s wh en hot part submerged an unbroken blanket surrounds the object. This blanket
exists between the specimen and quenching media if the heat from the surface of the object
exceeds the amount of heat needed to form maximum vapour per unit area of the object. This
stage is characterized by a relatively slow cooling rate since the vapour of the quenching
media surrounds the object and acts as an insulator. In this particular stage, heat is removed
from the object by radiation and conduction through the vapour layer. As the component
cools, the vapour blanket cannot be maintained and therefore, breaks down. After this
Vol.11, No .4 Role of Heat Treatment on Al6061- Frit 355
breakdown, the boiling stage immediately begins. The surface of the object now carries in
direct contact with the fluid and result in violent boiling of the medium. This stage is
characterized by rapid heat transfer through the heat of vaporization. Size and shape of the
vapour bubbles are important in controlling the duration of this stage as well as its
corresponding rate. As the object continues to cool below the boiling point of the medium,
the boiling stage can no longer exist and it too break down giving way to liquid cooling stage.
This stage, much like the vapour blanket stage, is also characterized by slow rates of heat
transfer. Heat is dissipated from the object by movement of the quenching medium by
conduction currents. The difference in temperature between the boiling point of the medium
and actual temperatu re of the medi um is the major factor influen cing the rate o f heat transf er
in liquid.
Previous studies [13-18] of the ageing behavior of the composite with discontinuous ceramic
reinforcement is different from that of the aluminium matrix alloys. The hardening effect of
these composites by ageing depends on several factors such as (1) matrix material; (2) the
type of reinforcement including its size, shape and volume fraction; (3) the processing
technology; (4) the ageing temperature. There is lack of information for ageing behavior of
Al6061-Frit composites. In this paper the ageing behavior of Al6061-Frit composites is
compared with heat treated Al6061 matrix alloy.
2.1 Composite Production
In this s tudy, the com posi tes were fab ricated b y vortex casting set -up consisting of resistance
furnace with a mechanical stirrer unit. Al6061 as matrix material and frit as reinforcement
material in the fabrication of composites. The chemical composition of Al6061 matrix alloy
is shown in table.1.
Table 1. Chemical composition of Al6061 (wt %)
Approximately 4000 grams of Al6061 alloy ingots were cut into pieces to accommodate into
the graphite crucible. The temperature was raised slowly above liqideous temperature of the
melt. Preheating of frit particles at 4500c was done using a muffle furnace, placed near the
casting set-up, in order to remove the moisture and gases from the surface of frit particles.
The chemical composition of Frit is shown in table.2.
The sti rrer was r aised, p ositi oned in to the crucible. The speed range used was upto 400 rpm.
The super heated molten metal was degassed; preheated frit particles were added to the
molten metal and stirred continuously by mechanical stirrer. The stirring time was 10
356 D.Ramesh, R.P.Swamy, T.K.Chandrashekar Vol.11, No.4
minutes. During stirring; magnesium was added in small quantities to enhance the wettability
of frit particles. The dispersion of the frit particles was achieved in accordance with the
vortex method. The melt, with the reinforcement was poured into the dried, preheated
permanent metallic moulds (dies). The pouring temperature was maintained at 7100C. The
melt was allowed to solidify in the moulds. The addition of Frit particles into the molten alloy
was varied from 2 wt % to 10 wt % in steps of 2 wt%. For the purpose of comparison, the
Al6061 matrix alloy was also casted under the similar conditions.
Table 2. Chemical composition of frit (wt %)
2.2 Heat Treatmen t
The cast Al6061 matrix alloy and Al6061-Frit particulate composites were subjected to
solutionizing treatment at a temperature 5300C for a period of 2 h using muffle furnace,
followed by quenching in three different quenchants vi z; Air, W at er and Ice. Artificial ageing
treatment was carried out for a duration of 2 h to 10 h in steps of 2 h. Metallographic, density,
and hardness tests were carried out on both unheated and heat treated specimens.
2.3 Microstructure
Micros tru ctu re st ud ies w ere con d u cted on as cast m atri x as wel l as composite specimens. The
specimens were metallographically ground with emery papers from 400 to 3000 grit and
polished with diamond paste. Etching was done using Keller’s reagent. For characterization
NIKON Metallurgical Microscope [NIKON, CLEMEX, ELLIPSE, and LV150] was used.
2.4 Density Tes t
The theoretical density was calculated using rule-of-mixture and experimentally, the density
measurements were carried out on the base alloy and reinforced samples using Archimedes
principle. The buoyant force on submerged object is equal to the weight of the fluid
displaced. This principle is useful for determining the volume, by measuring its mass in air
and its effective mass when submerged in water (density=1 g/cc).This effective mass under
water will be its actual mass minus the mass of the fluid displaced. The difference between
the real and effective masses therefore gives the mass of the displaced water and allows the
volume of the object to be calculated. Mass divided by the volume thus determined gives a
measure of the average density of the object [19]. The density of material, which is ratio of
weight to volume [20, 21]. Theoretical density was derived from Halpin-Tsai equation.
Density (theoretical) =ρ (DRMMC) = ρm vf(m)+ ρpvf (p) ------------(1)
ρ (DRMMC)= Density of the DRMMCs, ρm= Density of matrix alloy,
Vol.11, No .4 Role of Heat Treatment on Al6061- Frit 357
ρp= Density of reinforcing particle, vf(m)= Volume fraction of the matrix,
vf(p)= Volume fraction of reinforcing particle.
The Density of the respective specimens were determined basically by measuring the mass
and the volume by using the balance and the measuring cylinder respectively. It is then
estimated from the formula given below [22, 23].
Density (gm/cc) =Mass (gm)/Volume (cc) -------------- (2)
Density of reinforcement material (Frit) =2.52 g/cc.
Density of matrix material (Al6061) = 2.70 g/cc.
2.5 Hardness Test
Fig. 1 Pictorial view of hardness test specimens
Fig. 2 Pictorial view of hardness test specimens after indentation
358 D.Ramesh, R.P.Swamy, T.K.Chandrashekar Vol.11, No.4
Hardness m eas ur em ent s wer e ca rried ou t o n t he s p ecim ens of as -cast and composites in order
to compare with Al6061 matrix allo y. Round specimens of 20 mm in diameter w ere p repar ed
and polished on different grits of emery paper. The polished specimens were tested using
Brinell hardness tester. A load of 500 Kgf for a period of 30 seconds was applied with a ball
indenter of 10 mm diameter (HB500). The test was carried out five different locations to
controvert the possible effect of indenter resting on the harder particles. Hardness was
determined by measuring the indentations diameter produced. The average of all the five
readings was taken as the hardness of as cast and composite specimens. Figure 1 & 2 shows
the hardness test specimen before and after indentation.
Un-heat treated
Heat treated
Fig. 3.a. Microstructure of as cast Al6061 matrix alloy
Heat treated
Un-heat treated
Fig. 3.b. Microstructure of 6 wt % of Al6061- Frit particulate composite
Fig.4 Optical micrograph of aluminium /frit composite indicating good bond between
the matrix and frit particles
Vol.11, No .4 Role of Heat Treatment on Al6061- Frit 359
3.1 Microstructure
The optical micrograph of the cast Al6061 and Al6061-Frit particulate composites are sho wn
in Fi gure.3. a & b.The micrographs clearl y indicates the distribution of Frit particles is fairl y
uniform. Further the micrograph reveals an excellent bond between the matrix alloy and the
reinforcement as shown in Figure.4.
3.2 Density
Figure 5 is presented with comparison of theoretical density obtained by rule of mixture and
measured density values by experiment for Al6061 alloy and Al6061- Frit studied. The
results reveal that the presence of frit particles has an effect on the density of the MMC`s.
From figure it can be concluded that the experimental and theoretical density values are in
line with each other and confirms the suitability of the liquid metallurgy route for the
successful composite fabrication. This result is similar to that of other researchers [24]. M.
Ramachandra [19] reported the density of the reinforced particulates has effect on the
density of the MMC`s and variation of density with reinforcement content is in line with
experimental density values of Al6061-frit composites. It is observed that as the weight % of
the reinforcement increases the density of the composites decreases.
3.3 Hardness
The variation of hardness with increased weight % of reinforcement in the matrix alloy in as
cast condition without heat treatment is shown in figure.6. It is observed that with increased
weight % of reinforcement in the matrix alloy, there is a significant improvement in the
hardness of the composites.
D ensit y v/s weigh t % of reinforcemen t
0 24 6810
Weight % of reinforcement
Density ( g/cc)
Th eor etical Density
Ex p er im en tal Densit y
Fig.5. Effect of reinforcement on density of the composites.
360 D.Ramesh, R.P.Swamy, T.K.Chandrashekar Vol.11, No.4
Weight % of reinforcement
Har d n e ss (BHN )
Fig. 6.Variation of hardness with increase in weight % of reinforcement for as cast Al6061
matrix alloy and Al 6061-Frit particulate composites
Fig. 7.Variation of hardness with increase in ageing time for Al6061 matrix alloy and Al
6061-Frit particulate composites under heat treatment
02 46 810
Ageing Time (Hours)
Hardness (BHN)
0 wt.%.
2 wt.%
4 wt.%
6 wt.%
8 wt.%
10 wt.%
Ageing Time (Hours)
Hardness (BHN)
0 wt.%.
2 wt.%
4 wt.%
6 wt.%
8 wt.%
10 wt.%
Solutionizing temp.:530oC
Quenching media: Water
Ageing tem p. : 175
Figure 8.Variation of hardness with increase in ageing time for Al6061 matrix alloy and
Al 6061-Frit particulate composites under heat treatment conditions.
Vol.11, No .4 Role of Heat Treatment on Al6061- Frit 361
An improvement around 42% is observed in Al6061-10 Wt% frit particulate composites
when compared with unreinforced Al6061 alloy. This trend is similar to the results of other
researchers [25]. The variation of hardness with increased weight % of reinforcement in the
Al6061matrix alloy and Al6061-frit particulate composites with heat are shown in figures.7,
8, and 9.
On air quenching and ageing for 8 h, the matrix a lloy displa yed a maximum improvement in
hardness around 33%, while Al6061-10 wt % frit composites displayed a maximum
improvement in hardness around 11%.On water quenching and ageing for 6 h, the matrix
alloy displayed a maximum improvement in hardness around 52%, while Al6061-10 wt% fri t
composites displayed a maximum improvement in hardness around 33%. Ice quenching and
ageing for 6 h, the matrix alloy displayed a maximum improvement in hardness around 58%,
while Al6061-10 wt% frit composite displayed a maximum improvement in hardness around
Microstructural studies reveal a fairly uniform distribution of frit particles in the matrix alloy
with a good bond between the matrix alloy and reinforcement.
Densit y measur ement studi es reveals as th e weight percenta ge of reinforc ement in creases the
density of the composites decreases.
Hardness increases with ageing duration, reaches a peak value at 6 h, and with further
increase in ageing duration, there is a decrease in hardness.
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Fig. 9.Variation of hardness with increase in ageing time for Al6061 matrix alloy and Al
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Age ing Tim e (Hou rs)
Hard n e ss (BHN )
0 wt.%.
2 wt.%
4 wt.%
6 wt.%
8 wt.%
10 wt.%
Solutionizing temp.:530oC
Quenching media: ICE
Ageing tem p. : 175
362 D.Ramesh, R.P.Swamy, T.K.Chandrashekar Vol.11, No.4
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