Lorentz Force Infiltration Of Fibrous Preforms
A new process for the production of metal matrix composites, whereby molten metal is forced into the interstices of a fibrous preform using electromagnetic body forces, is presented. These forces are created by subjecting the molten matrix to a concentrated transient magnetic field which, in turn, induces intense eddy currents in the melt. This gives rise to Lorentz forces which propel the metal into the preform. Equations governing the mechanics of Lorentz force infiltration of an axisymmetric preform surrounded by molten metal are solved numerically. A finite difference algorithm is applied to solve Maxwell's equation of electromagnetic field propagation and to determine the flux density as a function of radial position. The resulting Lorentz force is then calculated and balanced with the inertial, fluid friction and capillary forces, taking preform compression into account, to predict infiltration velocity and cumulative infiltration distance. Apparatuses were designed and constructed to infiltrate cylindrical preforms of 24 vol pct 3-mu-m-diameter chopped alumina fiber preforms with commercial purity aluminum. Two capacitor banks were charged from 1 to 4 kV and rapidly discharged to produce magnetic pulses of up to 4 tesla peak, at frequencies of 2 to 3 kHz in the infiltrating furnace. A commercial MAGNEFORM unit was also used to produce fields of up to 5 tesla at 5.6 kHz. Sound composite samples were produced, to a depth of 1.8 mm into the preforms, with little or no breakage of fibers. Good agreement between theoretical model predictions and experimentally measured infiltration depths was demonstrated. Primary process variables, for a given matrix-preform system, were the number of discharges, the magnetic pulse intensity and frequency, and the melt ring thickness. The model predicts a pulse frequency below which infiltration does not occur and an optimum frequency for maximum infiltration depth. Successive pulses are predicted to produce only slightly decreasing increments in infiltration depth with the parameters explored, indicating that the process allows greater infiltration depths than were attained with preforms and apparatuses used in this work.