Formation of high-strength β ′ precipitates in Mg-RE alloys: The role of the Mg/β ″ interfacial instability

A. Issa*, J. E. Saal, C. Wolverton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Aging reactions in Mg-RE alloys strengthen magnesium, due to the formation of metastable β″ and β′ precipitates. We use first-principles calculations to critically assess binary Mg-RE (RE = Ce, Pr, Nd, Sm, Gd, Tb, Dy, Ho, Er, Tm and Y) aging reactions, metastable phases and interfacial energy. We find the following. (i) Our calculations correctly predict the formation of different variants of β′ phases for Mg-RE systems across the RE series. (ii) Surprisingly, the Mg/β″ prismatic interfaces are unstable, with a negative interfacial energy. (iii) This interfacial instability implies the existence of a more energetically stable compound than β″, which we show to be the β′ precipitate. By exposing the link between Mg/β″ prismatic interfaces and the β′ structure, we propose that β′ phase formation is due to an energetic preference for an ordered arrangement of Mg and β″. (iv) Our Mg/β″ interfacial energy results also indicate that atomically thin β″ planar Guinier-Preston zones can form as a precursor to β′ precipitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-83
Number of pages9
JournalActa Materialia
StatePublished - Jan 15 2015


  • Density functional theory
  • Interfacial energy
  • Magnesium alloys
  • Precipitation strengthening
  • Rare-earths

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Metals and Alloys


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