X-ray tomographic microscopy analysis of the dendrite orientation transition in Al-Zn
Recently, Gonzales and Rappaz [Met. Mat. Trans. A37:2797, 2006] showed the influence of an increasing zinc content on the growth directions of aluminum dendrites. < 100 > and < 110 > dendrites were observed below 25wt.% and above 55wt.% zinc, respectively, whereas textured seaweeds and < 320 > dendrites were observed at intermediate compositions. Considering the complexity of these structures, it is necessary to first characterize them in further details and second, to model them using the phase field method. The so-called Dendrite Orientation Transition (DOT) was thus reinvestigated in quenched Bridgman solidification samples. The combination of X-ray tomographic microscopy and electron back scattered diffraction (EBSD) analysis on a whole range of compositions, from 5 to 90wt.% Zn, allowed insights with unprecedented details about texture, growth directions and mechanisms of the aforementioned structures. We show that seaweeds rather than dendrites are found at all intermediate compositions. Their growth was confirmed to be constrained within a (100) symmetry plane. However, new findings indicate that the observed macroscopic texture does not necessarily correspond to the actual growth directions of the microstructure. Further, it seems to operate by an alternating growth direction mechanism and could be linked to the competition between the < 100 > and < 110 > characters of regular dendrites observed at the limits of the DOT. These characters, as well as 3D seaweeds, are observed in phase-field simulations of equiaxed growth and directional solidification, respectively. This study emphasizes the importance of accurate experimental data to validate numerical models and details the progress that such combinations provide for the understanding of growth mechanisms.