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Metallographic Aluminum Etchants

Metallographic Etching

Aluminum and Aluminum Alloys

Aluminum alloys are designated as either wrought or cast. Wrought aluminum alloys are classified by the major alloying element

  • 1000 series pure aluminum (1050, 1060, 1199)
  • 2000 series aluminum copper alloys (2014. 2024, 2219)
  • 3000 series aluminum ma managese alloys (3003, 3004, 3102)
  • 4000 series aluminum silicon alloys (4041)
  • 5000 series aluminum magnesium alloys (5005, 5052, 5083, 5086, 5154, 5356, 5154, 5356, 5454)
  • 6000 series aluminum magnesium and silicon alloys (6060, 6061, 6063, 6066, 6070, 6082, 6105, 6162)
  • 7000 series aluminum zinc alloys (70005, 7022, 7068, 7072, 7075, 7079, 7116, 7129, 7178)
  • 8000 series aluminum lithium alloys

Cast aluminum alloys are classified similarly to wrought alloys, however, the 2nd and 3rd digit signify the percentage of aluminum

  • 1xx.x series are minimum 99% aluminium
  • 2xx.x series copper (201.0, 204.0, 242.0)
  • 3xx.x series silicon, copper and/or magnesium (319.0, 328.0, 328.0, 355.0, 356.0)
  • 4xx.x series silicon (433.3)
  • 5xx.x series magnesium (512.0, 514.0, 520.0, 535.0)
  • 7xx.x series zinc (705.0, 707.0, 710.0, 713.0, 771.0)
  • 8xx.x series lithium

The most common etchants for aluminum are Kellers etch and Kroll's reagent, however, there are hundreds of more specific etchants. A good resouce for additional etchants can be found with the etchant database provided by PACE Technologies, http://www.metallographic.com/Consumables/Etch.htm

Sample Preparation: Aluminum alloys must be properly prepared to reveal the true metallographic microstructure. A number of recommended procedures can be found at the following links:

http://www.metallographic.com/Procedures/Aluminum%20Description.htm

http://www.metallographic.com/Brochures/Met-Manual-2b.pdf

CAUTION: Safety is very important when etching. Be sure to wear the appropriate protective clothing and observe all WARNINGS on chemical manufacturers MSDS. Also review COMMENTS Section for each etchant.

Etchant

Conc.

Conditions

Comments

Kellers Etch
Distilled water
Nitric acid
Hydrochloric acid
Hydrofluoric acid

190 ml
5 ml
3 ml
2 ml

10-30 second immersion
Use fresh

For most aluminum and aluminum alloys

Methanol
Hydrochloric acid
Nitric acid
Hydrofluoric acid

25 ml
25 ml
25 ml
1 drop

10-60 seconds

Pure aluminum, aluminum-magnesium, and aluminum-magnesium-silicon alloys

Krolls Reagent
Distilled water
Nitric acid
Hydrofluoric acid

92 ml
6 ml
2 ml

15 seconds

Aluminum-copper alloys


Metallographic micrograph for Aluminum-silicon alloys
Aluminum-Silicon Alloy, Kellers etch, 200X


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