Aluminum alloys are commonly used for engineering applications due to their high strength to weight ratio, low weight, and low cost. Pitting corrosion, accelerated by saltwater environments, leads to fatigue cracks and stress corrosion cracking during service. Two-dimensional (2D) characterization methods are typically used to identify and characterize corrosion; however, these methods are destructive and do not enable an efficient means of quantifying mechanisms of pit initiation and growth. In this study, lab-scale x-ray microtomography was used to non-destructively observe, quantify, and understand pit growth in three dimensions over a 20-day corrosion period in the AA7075-T651 alloy. The XRT process, capable of imaging sample volumes with a resolution near one micrometer, was found to be an ideal tool for large-volume pit examination. Pit depths were quantified over time using renderings of sample volumes, leading to an understanding of how inclusion particles, oxide breakdown, and corrosion mechanisms impact the growth and morphology of pits. This process, when carried out on samples produced with two different rolling directions and rolling extents, yielded novel insights into the long-term macroscopic corrosion behaviors impacted by alloy production and design. Key among these were the determinations that the alloy’s rolling direction produces a significant difference in the average growth rate of pits and that the corrosion product layer loses its passivating effect as a result of cyclic immersion. In addition, a new mechanism of pitting corrosion is proposed which is focused on the pseudo-random spatial distribution of iron-rich inclusion particles in the alloy matrix, which produces a random distribution of pit depths based on the occurrence of co-operative corrosion near inclusion clusters.
- Understanding Pitting Corrosion in a High-Performance Aluminum Alloy by 4D X-ray Microtomography