Nano Porous Alumina Based Composite Coating for Tribological Applications
Anodisation is a surface treatment process, commonly used to form a protective oxide coating on the surface of metals like aluminium. Anodised coatings, being grown out of the base metal have excellent interface strength but are porous and brittle. Porosity of the coating reduces the hardness and the brittle nature of the oxide induces cracking. In practice, the pores are typically filled with organic dye and sealed. Under certain controlled electrochemical conditions, anodisation results in a highly ordered hexagonal porous structure in pure aluminium. In this work, we explore the possibility of using this ordered porous alumina to form a novel metal nanocomposite as a tribological coating. By optimizing the nonporous structure and tuning the electrodeposition process, we uniformly filled the ordered pores with copper. We have measured the hardness of the resulting ordered and aligned nanocomposite. We explore the possibility of using this composite coating for tribological applications by carrying out some preliminary reciprocating wear test. Ordered porous alumina layer is formed by a two-step anodisation process. By optimizing the anodisation conditions, we control the thickness of the coating and the pore size. The interface of the porous structure and aluminium substrate is defined by a non-conducting dense barrier oxide layer. However, to deposit metal into the pores, a conducting path should be established through the barrier layer. One possibility is to etch out the bottom of the pores at the cost of the interface strength and losing out on the main advantage of anodised coatings. To be able to fill metal without this sacrifice, we utilised the dendritic structure in the barrier layer formed by a step-wise reduction of voltage towards the end of anodisation process. Optimisation of this dendritic structure led to uniform deposition of metal into pores, achieved by pulsed electrodeposition. In pulse lectrodeposition, a positive pulse is applied to remove accumulated charge near to the bottom of pores, followed by a negative pulse to deposit metal and a delay to allow diffusion of ions. By optimising the pulse shape and duration, we have achieved uniform growth of metal into pores. Further, monitoring the deposition current helped us to identify and control different phases of growth of the nanowire. The properties of the porous alumina and the nanocomposite were measured by nanoindentation. The deformation characteristics were obtained by observing the indents in a FE-SEM. We find that dendritic modification of interface has very little effect on the hardness of the porous alumina layer. We also found that the porous alumina deformed either by compaction or by forming circumferential and radial cracks. When copper is filled in the nano pores, the hardness increased by 50% and no circumferential cracks were found up to the load of 10 mN for a film thickness of about 1 µm. Coefficient of friction of the coating reciprocated against steel in dry condition is found to be around 0.4. Minimal wear was observed from the SEM images of wear track. In summary, a novel nanocomposite coating with ordered porous alumina as matrix embedded with aligned metal nano rods has been developed. This was achieved by optimally modifying the barrier layer without sacrificing the interfacial strength. Uniform coating has been achieved over an area of 10 mm x 10 mm. The coating is found to have high hardness and high wear resistance.
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