The incorporation of carbon nanostructures into Al alloys has the potential to further improve the mechanical and electrical properties of these alloys. We report a novel one-step fabrication method of incorporating carbon in aluminum alloys by the application of a high electric current to molten Al metal containing particles of activated carbon at high temperature and under Ar atmosphere. We propose that the mechanism for carbon incorporation is similar to electromigration where the current facilitates ionization of the carbon atoms followed by polymerization of the carbon structures and the formation of graphitic chains and ribbons along preferred directions of the Al lattice. Furthermore, the current induces transformation from amorphous carbon to crystalline graphitic structures that propagate in the metal matrix. The carbon is identified by the C-K edge in electron energy loss spectra, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Raman and Kelvin probe force microscopy. The stiffness is increased in these samples; hardness, on the other hand, decreases for some samples compared to reference Al alloys with no carbon. The electrical conductivity is superior to that of Al-carbon nanotube composites previously reported. The enhanced properties of Al covetics show potential for naval and aerospace applications and power transmission lines.
Ge, X., Klingshirn, C., Wuttig, M., Gaskell, K., Zavalij, P. Y., Liang, Y., … Salamanca-Riba, L. G. (2019). Mechanism studies and fabrication for the incorporation of carbon into Al alloys by the electro-charging assisted process. Carbon, 149, 203–212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.carbon.2019.04.049