NSF STEM Research Poster Session

YSU undergraduate students Kristen Hernandez, Nikki Rendziniak, Nick Ragan, Brian Stahl and Hannah Rebraca presented “Extraction and Characterization of Intermetallic Fe-Al particles from Aluminum Alloys” at the 4th Annual Success in Math and NSF STEM Research Poster Session. Together with Dr. Matt Zeller, YSU Research Staff Scientist at the College of STEM, the students analyzed an aluminum rich Al-Fe melt sample that was sent for analysis by Fireline, Inc., of Youngstown, OH. Fireline, a prime manufacturer of ceramic and refractory materials as well as ceramic-metallic composites, was interested in the exact composition of the melt which is used during the fabrication of metal matrix composite materials.

Optical microscopy of a polished piece of the solidified indicated the presence of two compounds, a silvery matrix with small black needles and plates embedded. Using X-ray diffraction, the students identified the silvery matrix as aluminum metal. To determine the nature of the black needles, the Al-Fe melt was cut into small pieces and the aluminum matrix was dissolved using a chemical extraction processes – an iodine tartaric acid method and a method using boiling phenol. The latter method succeeded in selectively dissolving the Al matrix. The students analyzed the extracted black needles and plates using powder and single crystal X-ray diffraction and were able to identify them as an Al-Fe alloy of the composition Al13Fe4. The alloy, which initially was thought to be potentially unstable over time based on the tables published by the American Society for Metals (ASM International), which would have had implications for the stability and strength of products containing this Al-Fe alloy, was confirmed to be the most stable Al-Fe alloy of this composition.

For their presentation, the YSU students were awarded one out of only two First Place Prizes from a total of 112 contributions from over 300 students from Case Western University, University of Akron, Cleveland State University, Kent State University, and Cuyahoga Community College.

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