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Abstract

Oxide fiber-reinforced Ni-base composites have long been considered as attractive heat-resistant materials. After several decades of active research, however, interest in these materials began to decline around mid-1990’s due chiefly to 1) a lack of manufacturing technology to grow inexpensive single-crystal oxide fibers to be used in structural composites, and 2) fiber strength loss during processing due to chemical interactions with reactive solutes in the matrix. The cost disadvantage has been mitigated to a large extent by the development of innovative fiber fabrication processes such as the Internal Crystallization Method (ICM) that produces monocrystalline oxide fibers in a cost-effective manner. Fiber strength loss has been an equally restrictive issue but recent work has shown that it may be possible to design creep-resistant composites even when fiber surface reconstruction from chemical interactions has degraded the strength of extracted fibers tested outside the matrix. The key issue is the optimization of the composite- and interface structure. Reaction-formed defects may be healed by the matrix (or a suitable coating material) so that the fiber residing in the matrix may exhibit diminished sensitivity to flaws as compared to fibers extracted from the matrix and tested in isolation of the matrix. Generally, the Ni-base/Al2O3 composites exhibit acceptable levels of wettability and interface strength (further improved with the aid of reactive solutes), which are required for elevated-temperature creep-resistance. In order to harness the full potential of these composites, the quality of the interface as manifested in the fiber/matrix wettability, interface composition, interphase morphology, and interface strength must be designed. We identify key issues related to the measurement of contact angle, interface strength, and chemical and structural properties at the fiber/matrix interface in the Ni/alumina composites, and present the current state-ofthe-art in understanding and designing the Ni/alumina interface. There should be no doubt that optimization of the interface- and composite microstructure through judicious control of the fabrication process and surface modification shall yield technologically promising Ni-base/oxide fiber composites.
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