Large-scale serial sectioning of environmentally assisted cracks in 7xxx Al alloys using femtosecond Laser-PFIB

Timothy Burnett (Corresponding), Alistair Garner (Corresponding), Jack Donoghue, Yasser Al Aboura, Phil Prangnell, Bartlomiej Winiarski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In order to better understand the mechanisms of environmentally-assisted cracking (EAC) of 7xxx aluminium aerospace alloys, large scale serial sectioning using the newly developed femtosecond laser plasma focused ion-beam (laser PFIB) has been performed on both AA7050 and AA7085 alloys containing environmentally-assisted cracks introduced during accelerated laboratory testing. The samples were firstly scanned using X-ray computed tomography in order to reveal the long-range crack morphology and allow for targeted lift out of the crack tip regions for serial sectioning. This paper describes the optimisation of the methodology for both the liftout procedure and subsequent serial sectioning using laser-PFIB. Electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) mapping at each slice allowed for 3D reconstruction of statistically valid volumes of material, up to 0.5 mm3 with a fine voxel size (1 µm). High resolution secondary electron imaging at each slice allowed for 3D reconstruction of the crack volume, and the datasets were combined in order to investigate the interaction of the crack with the microstructure. Optimisation of both the liftout geometry and the slicing procedure resulted in significant reduction in laser-induced curtaining artefacts and higher quality data acquisition. For these alloys, laser slicing alone was sufficient to provide a deformation free surface allowing for EBSD indexing rates up to ~95 % acquired at high speeds of ~2000 Hz leading to reasonable acquisition times of ~4-5 days for each dataset. The datasets have shown that the grains in these alloys are much larger and more complex than previously realised, and the interaction of these cracks with the microstructure have shown that complex-shaped recrystallised grains can lead to significant crack deflection in these alloys and so may help to explain the observed differences in EAC behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMaterials Characterization
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2022


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