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Solid Solution – Materials

Fe-Fe3C Phase Diagram
The figure shows the iron–iron carbide (Fe–Fe3C) phase diagram. The percentage of carbon present and the temperature define the phase of the iron-carbon alloy and its physical characteristics and mechanical properties. The percentage of carbon determines the type of ferrous alloy: iron, steel, or cast iron. Source: wikipedia.org Läpple, Volker – Wärmebehandlung des Stahls Grundlagen. License: CC BY-SA 4.0

A solid solution is a uniform mixture of two crystalline solids that share a common crystal lattice. Solid solutions often consist of two or more types of atoms or molecules that share a crystal lattice, as in certain metal alloys. A solvent is an element or compound present in the greatest amount, and a solute is used to denote an element or compound in a minor concentration. The solute may incorporate into the solvent crystal lattice substitutionally by replacing a solvent particle in the lattice, or interstitially, by fitting into the space between solvent particles. Both types of solid solutions affect the material’s properties by distorting the crystal lattice and disrupting the physical and electrical homogeneity of the solvent material.

For the substitutional type, solute or impurity atoms replace or substitute for the host atoms. Several features of the solute and solvent atoms determine the degree to which the former dissolves in the latter. These are expressed as the Hume–Rothery rules. According to these rules, substitutional solid solutions may form if the solute and solvent have:

  • Similar atomic radii (15% or less difference)
  • Same crystal structure
  • Similar electronegativities
  • Similar valency, a solid solution mixes with others to form a new solution

Solid solutions have important commercial and industrial applications, as such mixtures often have superior properties to pure materials. Many metal alloys are solid solutions. Even small amounts of solute can affect the electrical and physical properties of the solvent.

Alloying is a common practice because metallic bonds allow different types of metals to be joined. For example, austenitic stainless steels, including Type 304 stainless steel (containing 18%-20% chromium and 8%-10.5% nickel), have a face-centered cubic structure of iron atoms with the carbon in an interstitial solid solution.

Materials Science:
  1. U.S. Department of Energy, Material Science. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1 and 2. January 1993.
  2. U.S. Department of Energy, Material Science. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 2 and 2. January 1993.
  3. William D. Callister, David G. Rethwisch. Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction 9th Edition, Wiley; 9 edition (December 4, 2013), ISBN-13: 978-1118324578.
  4. Eberhart, Mark (2003). Why Things Break: Understanding the World by the Way It Comes Apart. Harmony. ISBN 978-1-4000-4760-4.
  5. Gaskell, David R. (1995). Introduction to the Thermodynamics of Materials (4th ed.). Taylor and Francis Publishing. ISBN 978-1-56032-992-3.
  6. González-Viñas, W. & Mancini, H.L. (2004). An Introduction to Materials Science. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-07097-1.
  7. Ashby, Michael; Hugh Shercliff; David Cebon (2007). Materials: engineering, science, processing, and design (1st ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 978-0-7506-8391-3.
  8. J. R. Lamarsh, A. J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3d ed., Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN: 0-201-82498-1.

See above:

Crystallographic Defects