NiMnGa Heusler alloys, functioning as either ferromagnetic shape memory alloys or mangetocaloric materials, have both practical applications and fundamental research value. The functional properties of NiMnGa alloys are closely related to the martensitic transformation from high temperature austenitic phase to low temperature martensitic phase. Alloys can be used for room temperature or high temperature applications, depending on the martensitic transformation temperature, which is compositional sensitive. The microstructure and crystallography of the martensites can be very complex but are crucial to the optimization of the material performance. In this study, for the first time, a combinatorial study by combining solid-to-solid diffusion couples and various characterization techniques was carried out to fundamentally investigate the NiMnGa ternary alloys. Phase equilibria, interdiffusion behavior, microstructural and crystallographic development, and mechanical properties in NiMnGa alloys were systematically examined. Selected diffusion couples between pure Ni, Ni25Mn75 and four ternary off-stoichiometric NiMnGa alloys (i.e., Ni52Mn18Ga30, Ni46Mn30Ga24, Ni52Mn30Ga18, Ni58Mn18Ga24 in atomic percent) were assembled and annealed at 800, 850 and 900 °C for 480, 240 and 120 hours, respectively. The microstructure and concentration profiles of the interdiffusion zone were examined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) equipped with energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS). Concentration profiles across the interdiffusion zone were further quantified by electron probe micro analysis (EPMA). Detailed microstructure and crystallography of the austenite and martensite were investigated using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). TEM thin foils were prepared by using focused ion beam (FIB) in situ lift out (INLO) technique, which is able to select desired composition from diffusion couples. The mechanical properties, namely reduced elastic modulus and hardness, as a function of composition were assessed via nanoindentation. Solubility values obtained for various phases were mostly consistent with the existing isothermal phase diagrams, but the phase boundary of the ?(Mn) + ? two-phase region was slightly modified. In addition, equilibrium compositions for the ?(Ni) and ?' phases at 900 °C were also determined for the respective two-phase regions. Both austenitic and martensitic phases were found at room temperature in each diffusion couple with a clear interphase boundary. The compositions at the interfaces corresponded close to valence electron concentration (e/a) of 7.6, but decreased to lower values when Mn concentration increased to more than 35 at. %. Average effective interdiffusion coefficients for the ? phase over various compositional ranges were determined and reported in the light of temperature-dependence. Ternary interdiffusion coefficients were also determined and examined to assess the ternary diffusional interactions among Ni, Mn and Ga. Ni was observed to interdiffuse the fastest, followed by Mn then Ga. Interdiffusion flux of Ni also has strong influences on the interdiffusion of Mn and Ga with large and negative cross interdiffusion coefficients. The main ternary interdiffusion coefficients exhibited minimum values near 52 at. % Ni concentration. Extensive TEM analyses have been performed for the study of microstructure and crystallography of austenite and martensite from all diffusion couples. Crystallographic variations in martensitic phase, including non-modulated (NM) martensite, modulated (5M or 7M) martensite, were found in the diffusion couples. The 5M and 7M martensites were only found near the interface between austenite and martensite, corresponding to compositions with lower e/a ratio. The NM martensites were found mostly away from the interface region, with high e/a ratios. The tetragonality ratio (c/a) for NM martensite generally increases with e/a ratio, but also depended on the composition. All martensitic microstructure consists of twinned variants with different orientations that were documented using electron diffraction. The twinning relationship along with the c/a ratio was correlated to martensitic transformation temperature. In addition, pre-martensitic state has been clearly observed in the cubic austenitic phase region, with distinctive tweed microstructure originating from the local lattice distortions. Mechanical properties including reduced elastic modulus (Er) and hardness (H) as a function of composition were measured and analyzed by nanoindentation. A decrease of Er and H was observed with Mn or Ni substituting Ga, and Ni substituting Mn for the austenitic phase. However, an opposite trend was found for the martensitic phase. The softening of the elastic constants near the vicinity of martensitic transformation contributed to the sharp decrease in Er and H near the interface region. The measured Er and H had larger scatter for the martensitic phase than those for the austenitic phase. The scatters observed were attributed to the martensitic variants with different orientations. Contribution from the variation in grain orientation or shape memory effect was determined to be small in this investigation.


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Graduation Date





Sohn, Yongho


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Materials Science Engineering

Degree Program

Materials Science and Engineering









Release Date

May 2016

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)