Secondary phases precipitated in diffusion affected zones (DAZs) of a transient liquid phase (TLP) bonded Ni-based superalloy have a large impact on materials properties. Here we report an atomic-scale analysis of the crystal structures and elemental distributions within DAZ precipitates in a TLP-bonded single-crystal superalloy using a range of electron microscopy techniques. The predominant precipitate phases are found to be M3B2- and M5B3-type borides, where M is a mixture of transition metal elements. Atomically-resolved energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy in an aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) enabled the distributions of metal atoms within the precipitates to be determined. The observation that different metals occupy preferred sites within the crystals indicates that these phases are not uniform solid solutions, but instead are chemically ordered. Both borides contain two distinct metal lattice sites such that the phases can be described as L2SB2 and L4SB3, where L and S are elements with larger (e.g., W, Mo) and smaller (e.g., Cr, Co, Ni) atomic numbers, respectively. Ordering of W and Cr is found to be particularly strong. A systematic search for stable phases within the chemical space of the W-Cr-B ternary system using the crystal structure prediction (CSP) program USPEX provided further insights into the nature of the observed chemical ordering. This combination of STEM and CSP techniques provides a direct and robust way of determining chemical features and local structures of multicomponent phases with atomic resolution even when particle sizes are too small for analysis using conventional methods.
- Chemical ordering
- Crystal structure prediction (CSP)
- Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS)
- MB and MB borides
- Transient liquid phase (TLP) bonding