Carbide Nanoparticle Dispersion Techniques for Metal Powder Metallurgy
Nanoparticles (NP) embedded into a matrix material have been shown to improve mechanical properties such as strength, hardness, and wear-resistance. However, the tendency of NPs to agglomerate in the powder mixing process is a major concern. This study investigates five different mechanochemical processing (MCP) routes to mitigate agglomeration to achieve a uniform dispersion of ZrC NPs in an Fe-based metal matrix composite. Our results suggest that MCP with only process controlling agents is ineffective in avoiding aggregation of these NPs. Instead, the uniformity of the carbide NP dispersion is achieved by pre-dispersing the NPs under ultrasonication using suitable surfactants followed by mechanically mixing of the NPs with iron powders in an alcohol solvent which is then dried. High-energy MCP is then used to embed the NPs within the powders. These collective steps resulted in a uniform dispersion of ZrC in the sintered (consolidated) Fe sample.