Open Access Nano Express

Investigation of phase composition and nanoscale microstructure of high-energy ball-milled MgCu sample

Zongqing Ma, Yongchang Liu*, Liming Yu and Qi Cai

Author Affiliations

Tianjin Key Laboratory of Composite and Functional Materials, School of Materials Science and Engineering, Tianjin University, Tianjin, 300072, People’s Republic of China

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2012, 7:390  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-7-390

Published: 13 July 2012

Abstract

The ball milling technique has been successfully applied to the synthesis of various materials such as equilibrium intermetallic phases, amorphous compounds, nanocrystalline materials, or metastable crystalline phases. However, how the phase composition and nanoscale microstructure evolute during ball milling in various materials is still controversial due to the complex mechanism of ball milling, especially in the field of solid-state amorphization caused by ball milling. In the present work, the phase evolution during the high-energy ball milling process of the Mg and Cu (atomic ratio is 1:1) mixed powder was investigated. It was found that Mg firstly reacts with Cu, forming the Mg2Cu alloy in the primary stage of ball milling. As the milling time increases, the diffracted peaks of Mg2Cu and Cu gradually disappear, and only a broad halo peak can be observed in the X-ray diffraction pattern of the final 18-h milled sample. As for this halo peak, lots of previous studies suggested that it originated from the amorphous phase formed during the ball milling. Here, a different opinion that this halo peak results from the very small size of crystals is proposed: As the ball milling time increases, the sizes of Mg2Cu and Cu crystals become smaller and smaller, so the diffracted peaks of Mg2Cu and Cu become broader and broader and result in their overlap between 39° and 45°, at last forming the amorphous-like halo peak. In order to determine the origin of this halo peak, microstructure observation and annealing experiment on the milled sample were carried out. In the transmission electron microscopy dark-field image of the milled sample, lots of very small nanocrystals (below 20 nm) identified as Mg2Cu and Cu were found. Moreover, in the differential scanning calorimetry curve of the milled sample during the annealing process, no obvious exothermic peak corresponding to the crystallization of amorphous phase is observed. All the above results confirm that the broad halo diffracted peak in the milled MgCu sample is attributed to the overlap of the broadened peaks of the very small Mg2Cu and Cu nanocrystalline phase, not the MgCu amorphous phase. The whole milling process of MgCu can be described as follows: <a onClick="popup('http://www.nanoscalereslett.com/content/7/1/390/mathml/M1','MathML',630,470);return false;" target="_blank" href="http://www.nanoscalereslett.com/content/7/1/390/mathml/M1">View MathML</a>.