In 2015, the United States consumed about 140.43 billion gallons of gasoline, resulting in the emission of over 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Despite continued efforts to develop more efficient engines and cleaner fuels, a major barrier to reducing energy consumption and CO2 production is the mass of the vehicle. Replacing traditional automotive materials such as iron and steel with lighter-weight materials is a big step toward improving fuel economy. Magnesium has great potential for use in the automotive industry because of its low density, about 78% less than the density of steel, and high strength-to-weight ratio. Using cast magnesium instead of steel can reduce the overall weight of a vehicle, improving performance and increasing fuel efficiency. However, magnesium’s high susceptibility to corrosion limits its feasibility as a substitute for traditional materials.
This project aimed to understand the effects of composition and phase distribution on the corrosion behavior of magnesium-aluminum (Mg-Al) alloys in an ionic liquid electrolyte. The purpose of studying corrosion in nonaqueous ILs is to determine the anodic dissolution behaviors of the alloy phases without the interference of side reactions that occur in aqueous electrolytes, such as di-oxygen or water reduction. Three commercial Mg-Al alloys were studied: AZ91D (9% Al), AM60 (6% Al), and AZ31B (3% Al). An annealed alloy containing solid-solution α-phase Mg-Al with 5 at% aluminum content (Mg5Al) was also used. The ionic liquid chosen for this project was 1:2 molar ratio choline-chloride:urea (cc-urea), a deep eutectic solvent. After potentiostatic corrosion in cc-urea, the magnesium alloys were found to form a high surface area porous morphology as corrosion duration increased. This morphology consists of aluminum-rich ridges formed by Al nanowires surrounding an aluminum-poor base area, but with an overall increase in surface Al composition, indicating selective dealloying of the Mg in cc-urea and redistribution of the Al on the surface. Further work will focus on the development of hydrophobic coatings using ionic liquids.