Infoscience

Thesis

Texture Formation in Hot-Dip Galvanized Coatings: Nucleation and Growth of Anisotropic Grains in a Confined Geometry

Continuous hot-dip galvanization is a process during which steel sheets are coated with a layer of Zn-Al alloy to protect them against corrosion. As the name indicates, this is achieved by dipping the preheated sheet into a bath of molten alloy. The sheet is then withdrawn and cooled down in air. The solidification microstructure of such coatings is made of large zinc grains (spangles), which preferentially have their hexagonal ‹0001› axis perpendicular to the sheet plane (basal texture). The mechanisms leading to this preferred orientation were investigated in this study, with a particular focus on nucleation and dendritic growth. An experiment was designed to reproduce the solidification stage of hot-dip galvanization on a laboratory scale. Industrial coatings were remelted in an infrared image furnace and solidified under controlled cooling conditions. Thanks to the wide range of possible cooling rates, the influence of this parameter on the size and orientation of the zinc grains could be investigated. The thermal plateau induced by the solidification of the thin coating could be detected, even for fairly thick steel sheets. However, the signal was better for larger coating/steel thickness ratio. A minimum coating thickness and Al content are needed if Fe-Zn intermetallic outbursts are to be avoided during remelting. Additionally, skin-pass, as well as any deformation of the coated sheets, must be avoided prior to these laboratory experiments. A coupled cellular automaton — finite volume model was concurrently developed to simulate solidification. It was then used to obtain the nucleation parameters of the spangles by inverse modeling based on the remelting experiments. The model accounts for the effects of zinc crystal symmetry and of the confined coating geometry on nucleation and growth phenomena. In particular, the preferred orientation of the grains is included in the nucleation site distribution. Its basal part is still an estimate, but it could be refined from new experimental measurements with the infrared remelting device. On a more fundamental side, a mathematical formulation of the anisotropic solid-liquid interfacial energy of Zn-Al alloys was derived from the equilibrium shape of liquid droplets in a solid matrix. This property changes by more than 40% between the c axis and the basal plane. This very large variation has important effects on the solidification mechanisms. The interfacial energy, as well as the wetting conditions for an anisotropic grain, were then implemented in a phase field model, which was used to simulate the growth of zinc dendrites in coatings. It revealed that the growth directions and velocities are strongly influenced by the film thickness and by anisotropic wetting effects. The possibility that the preferred zinc orientation could be induced by the textured steel substrate was investigated by comparing the orientation of zinc grains with that of the ferrite grains underneath. It was observed that spangles with a random orientation distribution are independent of the substrate. Unfortunately, the observed specimen did not exhibit a basal coating texture and thus, the existence of a relation between basal grains and ferrite texture could not be investigated. The anisotropy formulation was also used to extend the classical theory of heterogeneous nucleation to anisotropic metals. These computations showed that a basal orientation of the nuclei is strongly favored from an energy point of view. Such developments can explain the occurrence of basal grains around holes that form during infrared remelting, so-called rose structures. Preferential basal nucleation and the wetting influence on dendrite growth are also responsible for the morphology transition observed in Galfan, a Zn-Al coating of eutectic composition: when appropriate cooling conditions are applied, a shiny layer of basal grains forms at the top surface before the onset of eutectic solidification. Finally, these mechanisms could also explain the preferential basal orientation of regular hot-dip galvanized coatings. However, the conditions on a galvanizing line do not meet the criteria that are requested to activate them in Galfan. Additionally, the texture of hot-dip coatings is reported to depend on the surface preparation of the sheet, although the anisotropic nucleation theory does not consider the steel substrate. Further investigations on these contradictions are needed before these mechanisms can be used to explain the preferred orientation in regular galvanized coatings.

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