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J Phys Condens Matter. 2012 Jun 27;24(25):255304. doi: 10.1088/0953-8984/24/25/255304. Epub 2012 May 28.

Theoretical study and pathways for nanoparticle capture during solidification of metal melt.

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1
Material Science Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.

Abstract

Nanocomposites can provide exciting physical, chemical, and mechanical properties for numerous applications. The solidification processing method has great potential for economical fabrication of bulk nanocomposites, especially for those with crystalline materials as the matrix, such as metal matrix nanocomposites (MMNCs). However, it is extremely difficult to effectively capture nanoparticles (less than 100 nm) into the solidification fronts during solidification. It is thus very important to initiate a theoretical study to examine the physics that governs the interactions between nanoparticles and the solidification front, and to provide enabling pathways for effective nanoparticle capture during solidification. The aim of this paper is to establish a theoretical framework for the fundamental understanding of nanoparticle capture during solidification of metal melt in order to obtain bulk MMNCs. A thermodynamically favorable condition is set as the starting point for further theoretical analysis of the three-party model system, namely a nanoparticle-metal-melt-solidification front. Three key interaction potentials, the interfacial energy at short range (0.2-0.4 nm), the van der Waals potential (especially at a longer range beyond 0.4 nm and up to ∼10 nm) and the Brownian potential, were studied. Three possible pathways for nanoparticle capture were thus devised: viscous capture, Brownian capture and spontaneous capture. Spontaneous capture is proposed as the most favorable for nanoparticle capture during solidification of metal melt. The theoretical model of nanoparticle capture from this study will serve as a powerful tool for future experimental studies to realize exciting functionalities offered by bulk MMNCs.

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