phase-field model, microstructure evolution, interdiffusion, thermotransport, thermodynamics, kinetics


The diffuse-interface phase-field model is a powerful method to simulate and predict mesoscale microstructure evolution in materials using fundamental properties of thermodynamics and kinetics. The objective of this dissertation is to develop phase-field model for simulation and prediction of interdiffusion behavior and evolution of microstructure in multiphase binary and ternary systems under composition and/or temperature gradients. Simulations were carried out with emphasis on multicomponent diffusional interactions in single-phase system, and microstructure evolution in multiphase systems using thermodynamics and kinetics of real systems such as Ni-Al and Ni-Cr-Al. In addition, selected experimental studies were carried out to examine interdiffusion and microstructure evolution in Ni-Cr-Al and Fe-Ni-Al alloys at 1000°C. Based on Onsager’s formalism, a phase-field model was developed for the first time to simulate the diffusion process under an applied temperature gradient (i.e., thermotransport) in single- and two-phase binary alloys. Development of concentration profiles with uphill diffusion and the occurrence of zeroflux planes were studied in single-phase diffusion couples using a regular solution model for a hypothetical ternary system. Zero-flux plane for a component was observed to develop for diffusion couples at the composition that corresponds to the activity of that component in one of the terminal alloys. Morphological evolution of interphase boundary in solid-to-solid two-phase diffusion couples (fcc-γ vs. B2-β) was examined in Ni-Cr-Al system with actual thermodynamic data and concentration dependent chemical mobility. With the instability introduced as a small initial compositional fluctuation at the interphase boundary, the evolution of the interface morphology was found to vary largely as a function of terminal alloys and related composition-dependent chemical mobility. In a binary Ni-Al system, multiphase diffusion couples of fcc-γ vs. L12-γ′, γ vs. γ+γ′ and γ+γ′ vs. γ+γ′ were simulated with alloys of varying compositions and volume fractions of second phase (i.e., γ′). Chemical mobility as a function of composition was employed in the study with constant gradient energy coefficient, and their effects on the final interdiffusion microstructure was examined. Interdiffusion microstructure was characterized by the type of boundaries formed, i.e. Type 0, Type I, and Type II boundaries, following various experimental observations in literature and thermodynamic considerations. Volume fraction profiles of alloy phases present in the diffusion couples were measured to quantitatively analyze the formation or dissolution of phases across the boundaries. Kinetics of dissolution of γ′ phase was found to be a function of interdiffusion coefficients that can vary with composition and temperature. The evolution of interdiffusion microstructures in ternary Ni-Cr-Al solid-to-solid diffusion couples containing fcc-γ and γ+β (fcc+B2) alloys was studied using a 2D phase-field model. Alloys of varying compositions and volume fractions of the second phase (β) were used to simulate the dissolution kinetics of the β phase. Semi-implicit Fourier-spectral method was used to solve the governing equations with chemical mobility as a function of compositions. The simulation results showed that the rate of dissolution of the β phase (i.e., recession of β+γ twophase region) was dependent on the composition of the single-phase γ alloy and the volume fraction of the β phase in the two-phase alloy of the couple. Higher Cr and Al content in the γ alloy and higher volume fraction of β in the γ+β alloy lower the rate of dissolution. Simulated results were found to be in good agreement with the experimental observations in ternary Ni-CrAl solid-to-solid diffusion couples containing γ and γ+β alloys. For the first time, a phase-field model was developed to simulate the diffusion process under an applied temperature gradient (i.e., thermotransport) in multiphase binary alloys. Starting from the phenomenological description of Onsager’s formalism, the field kinetic equations are derived and applied to single-phase and two-phase binary system. Simulation results show that a concentration gradient develops due to preferential movement of atoms towards the cold and hot end of an initially homogeneous single-phase binary alloy subjected to a temperature gradient. The temperature gradient causes the redistribution of both constituents and phases in the two-phase binary alloy. The direction of movement of elements depends on their atomic mobility and heat of transport values.


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Graduation Date



Sohn, Yong-Ho


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Materials Science & Engineering








Release Date

May 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)