Segregation-driven grain boundary spinodal decomposition as a pathway for phase nucleation in a high-entropy alloy

Li, L. and Li, Z. and Kwiatkowski da Silva, A. and Peng, Z. and Zhao, H. and Gault, B. and Raabe, D.

Volume: 178 Pages: 1-9
DOI: 10.1016/j.actamat.2019.07.052
Published: 2019

Elemental segregation to grain boundaries (GBs) can induce structural and chemical transitions at GBs along with significant changes in material properties. The presence of multiple principal elements interacting in high-entropy alloys (HEAs) makes the GB segregation and interfacial phase transformation a rather challenging subject to investigate. Here, we explored the temporal evolution of the chemistry for general high-angle GBs in a typical equiatomic FeMnNiCoCr HEA during aging heat treatment through detailed atom probe tomography (APT) analysis. We found that the five principal elements segregate heterogeneously at the GBs. More specifically, Ni and Mn co-segregate to some regions of the GBs along with the depletion of Fe, Co and Cr, while Cr is enriched in other regions of the GBs where Ni and Mn are depleted. The redistribution of these elements on the GBs follow a periodic characteristic, spinodal-like compositional modulation. The accumulation of elements at the GBs can create local compositions by shifting their state from a solid solution (like in the adjacent bulk region) into a spinodal regime to promote interfacial phase-like transitions as segregation proceeds. These results not only shed light on phase precursor states and the associated nucleation mechanism at GBs in alloy systems with multiple principal elements but also help to guide the microstructure design of advanced HEAs in which formation of embrittling phases at interfaces must be avoided. © 2019 Acta Materialia Inc.

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