The goal of the present study was to gain insight into the mechanisms and behavior of solute driven melting processes. Solute-driven melting refers to melting whose driving force originates from a change in composition, i.e., solute content, rather than a change in temperature. This kind of melting has been known to cause casting defects in superalloys and other metals.
An experimental apparatus was designed and a series of experiments were carried out on Sn-Bi alloys. The apparatus involved diffusing Bi into solid Sn cast inside a glass capillary to cause it to melt. The Bi source was an enriched liquid Sn-Bi alloy contained in a reservoir. The Sn in the capillary was kept at a constant temperature below its melting point so that the melting was caused by the increasing Bi composition. The progression of the interface was monitored by quenching the process at various times for the same conditions.
The apparatus was successful in delivering data for the displacement of the interface against time. It was found that interface position was approximately proportional to the square root of time, and so the process may be diffusion controlled as conjectured in previous literature. Rough calculations are made relating the temperature and supersaturation to the displacement coefficient A in the equation z = At½ where z is displacement and t is time. By comparing data at different temperatures with the same supersaturation, an activation energy Q of ~60,000J/mol is calculated. This value is between the activations energies for diffusion of Bi through the liquid and the solid. Suggestions for modification of the apparatus to include in-situ interface monitoring are made.