High-temperature alloys are crucial to many important technologies that underpin our civilization. All these materials rely on forming an external oxide layer (scale) for corrosion protection. Despite decades of research on oxide scale growth, many open questions remain, including the crucial role of the so-called reactive elements and water. Here, we reveal the hitherto unknown interplay between reactive elements and water during alumina scale growth, causing a metastable ‘messy’ nano-structured alumina layer to form. We propose that reactive-element-decorated, hydroxylated interfaces between alumina nanograins enable water to access an inner cathode in the bottom of the scale, at odds with the established scale growth scenario. As evidence, hydride-nanodomains and reactive element/hydrogen (deuterium) co-variation are observed in the alumina scale. The defect-rich alumina subsequently recrystallizes to form a protective scale. First-principles modelling is also performed to validate the RE effect. Our findings open up promising avenues in oxidation research and suggest ways to improve alloy properties.
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Financial support from the Swedish Energy Agency is gratefully acknowledged. The authors are grateful to T. Helander of Sandvik Heating Technology for helpful advice during the research, M. Thuvander (Division for Materials Microstructure in the Department of Physics at Chalmers University of Technology) for interpretation of the APT results, and M. Norell (Division of Materials and Manufacture in the Department of Industrial and Materials Science at Chalmers University of Technology) for his help in conducting AES analysis. This research was conducted in the Swedish High Temperature Corrosion Centre (HTC) at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Advanced Materials (2019)
Oxidation of Metals (2019)
RSC Advances (2018)
Nature Materials (2018)
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