The modified surface layers of Mg enriched with Al and Si were fabricated by thermochemical treatment. The substrate material in contact with an Al + 20 wt.% Si powder mixture was heated to 445ºC for 40 or 60 min. The microstructure of the layers was examined by OM and SEM. The chemical composition of the layer and the distribution of elements were determined by energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS). The experimental results show that the thickness of the layer is dependent on the heating time. A much thicker layer (1 mm) was obtained when the heating time was 60 min than when it was 40 min (600 μm). Both layers had a non-homogeneous structure. In the area closest to the Mg substrate, a thin zone of a solid solution of Al in Mg was detected. It was followed by a eutectic with Mg17Al12and a solid solution of Al in Mg. The next zone was a eutectic with agglomerates of Mg2Si phase particles; this three-phase structure was the thickest. Finally, the area closest to the surface was characterized by dendrites of the Mg17Al12phase. The microhardness of the modified layer increased to 121-236 HV as compared with 33-35 HV reported for the Mg substrate.
The thermochemical treatment applied to improve the surface properties of AZ91 consisted in heating the material in contact with AlSi10Mg powder at 445 oC for 30 min. During heat treatment process the powder was held under pressure to facilitate the diffusion of the alloying elements to the substrate and, accordingly, the formation of a modified layer. Two pressures, 1 MPa and 5 MPa, were tested. The resultant layers, containing hard Mg2Si and Mg17Al12 phases, were examined using an optical microscope and a scanning electron microscope equipped with an energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS). The experimental data show that the layer microstructure was dependent on the pressure applied. A thicker, three-zone layer (about 200 μm) was obtained at 1 MPa. At the top, there were Mg2Si phase particles distributed over the Mg17Al12 intermetallic phase matrix. The next zone was a eutectic (Mg17Al12 and a solid solution of Al in Mg) with Mg2Si phase particles embedded in it. Finally, the area closest to the AZ91 substrate was a eutectic not including the Mg2Si phase particles. By contrast, the layer produced at a pressure of 5 MPa had lower thickness of approx. 150 μm and a two-zone structure. Mg2Si phase particles were present in both zones. In the upper zone, Mg2Si phase particles were regularly distributed over the Mg17Al12 intermetallic phase matrix. The lower zone, adjacent to the AZ91, was characterized by a higher volume fraction of Mg2Si phase particles distributed over the matrix composed mainly of Mg17Al12. The alloyed layers enriched with Al and Si had much higher hardness than the AZ91 substrate.