First-principles modeling of complexions at the phase boundaries in Ti-doped WC-Co cemented carbides at finite temperatures
Journal article, 2021
WC-Co cemented carbides have a unique combination of high hardness and good toughness, making them ideal as tool materials in applications such as metal machining or rock drilling. Dopants are commonly added to retard grain growth and thereby creating a harder material. Thin films with cubic structure have been observed experimentally at phase boundaries between hexagonal WC and fcc Co-rich binder when doping with, e.g., Ti, V, or Cr. These films are generally considered to play a crucial role in the grain growth inhibition effect. Therefore, the thermodynamics of these thin cubic films is important to understand. Here, we construct, using ab initio calculations and modeling, an interfacial phase diagram for thin cubic films in Ti-doped WC-Co. We consider C↔vacancy and W↔Ti substitutions by constructing alloy cluster expansions and use Monte Carlo simulations to calculate the configurational free energy. Furthermore, force-constant fitting is used to extract the harmonic free energy for the ground-state structures. Additionally, we use information from thermodynamic databases to couple our atomic-scale calculations to overall compositions of typical WC-Co materials. We predict that Ti segregates to WC/Co phase boundaries to form thin cubic films of two metallic layer thickness, both at solid-state and liquid-phase sintering temperatures. Furthermore, we predict that these films are stable also for low doping concentrations when no Ti-containing carbide phase precipitates in the material. We show that Ti essentially only segregates to the inner layer of the thin cubic film leaving an almost pure W layer towards Co, an ordering which has been observed in recent experimental high-resolution transmission electron microscopy studies.