The wetting of ceramic surfaces by aluminum alloys has been reexamined using a chemical system where interfacial reactions and oxide film effects could be isolated. The system Al–Mg–O was chosen since it is technologically important and high-purity, well-characterized materials are readily available. Magnesium alloyed with the aluminum sessile drop and silicon picked up from the experimental apparatus cause an initial reduction in contact angle by altering the protective nature of the oxide film formed on the sessile drop. Evidence of spreading is observed as an intermediate process in the reactive sessile drop pairs. Reaction products formed between the Al–Mg alloys and sapphire (Al2O3), spinel (MgAl2O4), or periclase (MgO) can be interpreted with predicted phase equilibria and the measured loss of magnesium from the sessile drop. Only the rate of the periclase alloy interaction was rapid enough to result in a continuous product layer after 24 h at 800 °C. The volatilization of all of the magnesium from the sessile drop resulted in the formation of a true Al–Al2O3 interface. The contact angle for a true Al–Al2O3 interface is 88 ± 5 deg at 800 °C. The liquid-solid interfacial energy is 1688 ergs/cm2.
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