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Synthesis, characterization and quantitative analysis of porous metal microstructures: Application to microporous copper produced by solid state foaming

1 Department of Applied Engineering, Safety and Technology, Millersville University, Millersville, PA, USA
2 US Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, USA

Special Issues: Advanced microstructural characterization of materials

Porous metals can be created through a wide variety of processing techniques, and the pore morphology resulting from these processes is equally diverse. The structural and functional properties of metal foams are directly dependent on the size, shape, interconnectedness and volume fraction of pores, so accurately quantifying the pore characteristics is of great importance. Methods for analyzing porous materials are presented here and applied to a copper-based metallic foam generated through solid state foaming via oxide reduction and expansion. This process results in large voids (10s of microns) between sintered particles and small pores (10 microns to less than 50 nm) within particles. Optical and electron microscopy were used to image the porosity over this wide range, and the pore characteristics were quantified using image segmentation and statistical analysis. Two-dimensional pore analysis was performed using the Chan-Vese method, and two-point correlation and lineal path functions were used to assess three-dimensional reconstructions from FIB tomography. Two-dimensional analysis reveals distinct size and morphological differences in porosity between particles and within them. Three-dimensional analysis adds further information on the high level interconnectedness of the porosity and irregular shape it takes, forming tortuous pathways rather than spherical cells. Mechanical polishing and optical microscopy allow large areas to be created and analyzed quickly, but methods such as focused ion beam (FIB) sectioning can provide additional insight about microstructural features. In particular, after FIB milling is used to create a flat surface, that surface can be analyzed for structural and compositional information.
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