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The role of metal nanoparticles and nanonetworks in alloy degradation


Oxide scale, which is essential to protect structural alloys from high-temperature degradation such as oxidation, carburization and metal dusting, is usually considered to consist simply of oxide phases. Here, we report on a nanobeam X-ray and magnetic force microscopy investigation that reveals that the oxide scale actually consists of a mixture of oxide materials and metal nanoparticles. The metal nanoparticles self-assemble into nanonetworks, forming continuous channels for carbon transport through the oxide scales. To avoid the formation of these metallic particles in the oxide scale, alloys must develop a scale without spinel phase. We have designed a novel alloy that has been tested in a high-carbon-activity environment. Our results show that the incubation time for carbon transport through the oxide scale of the new alloy is more than an order of magnitude longer compared with commercial alloys with similar chromium content.

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Figure 1: X-ray data from oxides on Alloy 321 after 1,130 h exposure to a metal-dusting environment.
Figure 2: Electron and scanning probe micrographs of Alloy 321 cross-sections after 1,130 h exposure in a metal-dusting environment.
Figure 3: SEM micrographs of alloys after exposure to a carburizing gas at 1 atm and 593 C.
Figure 4: Three-dimensional profile mapping and Raman spectra of Alloys 601 and ANL1 after 12,858 h exposure to the same metal-dusting environment at 593 C and 1 atm.
Figure 5


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We thank D. L. Rink for conducting the metal-dusting experiments, S. Cai for data analysis of the nanobeam XRD and J. Froitzheim for SEM analysis. This work is supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Industrial Technologies. Use of the Advanced Photon Source, the Center for Nanoscale Materials and the Electron Microscopy Center for Materials Research were supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.

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Z.Z. and K.N. planned the experiments and analysed the data, Z.C. carried out the APS nanobeam experiment and S.B.D. carried out MFM measurements and contributed to data analysis and interpretation.

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Correspondence to Z. Zeng.

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Zeng, Z., Natesan, K., Cai, Z. et al. The role of metal nanoparticles and nanonetworks in alloy degradation. Nature Mater 7, 641–646 (2008).

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