Non-eutectic mixture ratios would have different melting temperatures for their different constituents, since one component's lattice will melt at a lower temperature than the other's. Conversely, as a non-eutectic mixture cools down, each of its components would solidify (form a lattice) at a different temperature, until the entire mass is solid.
Not all binary alloys have eutectic points, since the valence electrons of the component species are not always compatible,[clarification needed] in any mixing ratio, to form a new type of joint crystal lattice. For example, in the silver-gold system the melt temperature (liquidus) and freeze temperature (solidus) "meet at the pure element endpoints of the atomic ratio axis while slightly separating in the mixture region of this axis".
The term eutectic was coined in 1884 by British physicist and chemist Frederick Guthrie (1833–1886). The word originates from Greekεὐ- (eû) 'well', and τῆξῐς (têxis) 'melting'.
Eutectic phase transition
The eutectic solidification is defined as follows:
The resulting solid macrostructure from a eutectic reaction depends on a few factors, with the most important factor being how the two solid solutions nucleate and grow. The most common structure is a lamellar structure, but other possible structures include rodlike, globular, and acicular.
Compositions of eutectic systems that are not at the eutectic point can be classified as hypoeutectic or hypereutectic. Hypoeutectic compositions are those with a smaller percent composition of species β and a greater composition of species α than the eutectic composition (E) while hypereutectic solutions are characterized as those with a higher composition of species β and a lower composition of species α than the eutectic composition. As the temperature of a non-eutectic composition is lowered the liquid mixture will precipitate one component of the mixture before the other. In a hypereutectic solution, there will be a proeutectoid phase of species β whereas a hypoeutectic solution will have a proeutectic α phase.
Eutectic alloys have two or more materials and have a eutectic composition. When a non-eutectic alloy solidifies, its components solidify at different temperatures, exhibiting a plastic melting range. Conversely, when a well-mixed, eutectic alloy melts, it does so at a single, sharp temperature. The various phase transformations that occur during the solidification of a particular alloy composition can be understood by drawing a vertical line from the liquid phase to the solid phase on the phase diagram for that alloy.
Some uses include:
NEMA Eutectic Alloy Overload Relays for electrical protection of 3-phase motors for pumps, fans, conveyors, and other factory process equipment.
Eutectic alloys for soldering, both traditional alloys composed of lead (Pb) and tin (Sn), sometimes with additional silver (Ag) or gold (Au) — especially Sn63Pb37 and Sn62Pb36Ag2 alloy formula for electronics - and newer lead-free soldering alloys, in particular ones composed of tin (Sn), silver (Ag), and copper (Cu) such as Sn96.5Ag3.5.
Sodium chloride and water form a eutectic mixture whose eutectic point is −21.2 °C and 23.3% salt by mass. The eutectic nature of salt and water is exploited when salt is spread on roads to aid snow removal, or mixed with ice to produce low temperatures (for example, in traditional ice cream making).
Ethanol–water has an unusually biased eutectic point, i.e. it is close to pure ethanol, which sets the maximum proof obtainable by fractional freezing.
Menthol and camphor, both solids at room temperature, form a eutectic that is a liquid at room temperature in the following proportions: 8:2, 7:3, 6:4, and 5:5. Both substances are common ingredients in pharmacy extemporaneous preparations.
The primary strengthening mechanism of the eutectic structure in metals is composite strengthening (See strengthening mechanisms of materials). This deformation mechanism works through load transfer between the two constituent phases where the more compliant phase transfers stress to the stiffer phase. By taking advantage of the strength of the stiff phase and the ductility of the compliant phase, the overall toughness of the material increases. As the composition is varied to either hypoeutectic or hypereutectic formations, the load transfer mechanism becomes more complex as there is now load transfer between the eutectic phase and the secondary phase as well as the load transfer within the eutectic phase itself.
A second tunable strengthening mechanism of eutectic structures is the spacing of the secondary phase. By changing the spacing of the secondary phase, the fraction of contact between the two phases through shared phase boundaries is also changed. By decreasing the spacing of the eutectic phase, creating a fine eutectic structure, more surface area is shared between the two constituent phases resulting in more effective load transfer. On the micro-scale, the additional boundary area acts as a barrier to dislocations further strengthening the material. As a result of this strengthening mechanism, coarse eutectic structures tend to be less stiff but more ductile while fine eutectic structures are stiffer but more brittle. The spacing of the eutectic phase can be controlled during processing as it is directly related to the cooling rate during solidification of the eutectic structure. For example, for a simple lamellar eutectic structure, the minimal lamellae spacing is:
Where is is the surface energy of the two-phase boundary, is the molar volume of the eutectic phase, is the solidification temperature of the eutectic phase, is the enthalpy of formation of the eutectic phase, and is the undercooling of the material. So, by altering the undercooling, and by extension the cooling rate, the minimal achievable spacing of the secondar phase is controlled.
Strengthening metallic eutectic phases to resist deformation at high temperatures (see creep deformation) is more convoluted as the primary deformation mechanism changes depending on the level of stress applied. At high temperatures where deformation is dominated by dislocation movement, the strengthening from load transfer and secondary phase spacing remain as they continue to resist dislocation motion. At lower strains where Nabarro-Herring creep is dominant, the shape and size of the eutectic phase structure plays a significant role in material deformation as it affects the available boundary area for vacancy diffusion to occur.
Other critical points
When the solution above the transformation point is solid, rather than liquid, an analogous eutectoid transformation can occur. For instance, in the iron-carbon system, the austenite phase can undergo a eutectoid transformation to produce ferrite and cementite, often in lamellar structures such as pearlite and bainite. This eutectoid point occurs at 723 °C (1,333 °F) and 0.76 wt% carbon.
Peritectic transformations are also similar to eutectic reactions. Here, a liquid and solid phase of fixed proportions react at a fixed temperature to yield a single solid phase. Since the solid product forms at the interface between the two reactants, it can form a diffusion barrier and generally causes such reactions to proceed much more slowly than eutectic or eutectoid transformations. Because of this, when a peritectic composition solidifies it does not show the lamellar structure that is found with eutectic solidification.
Such a transformation exists in the iron-carbon system, as seen near the upper-left corner of the figure. It resembles an inverted eutectic, with the δ phase combining with the liquid to produce pure austenite at 1,495 °C (2,723 °F) and 0.17% carbon.
At the peritectic decomposition temperature the compound, rather than melting, decomposes into another solid compound and a liquid. The proportion of each is determined by the lever rule. In the Al-Au phase diagram, for example, it can be seen that only two of the phases melt congruently, AuAl2 and Au2Al , while the rest peritectically decompose.
The composition and temperature of a eutectic can be calculated from enthalpy and entropy of fusion of each components.
The Gibbs free energy G depends on its own differential:
Thus, the G/T derivative at constant pressure is calculated by the following equation:
The chemical potential is calculated if we assume that the activity is equal to the concentration: