The reinforcement distribution of metal matrix composites (MMCs) plays an important role in low cycle fatigue. Thus, it is essential to study the effect of reinforcement clustering on the crack initiation mechanism of MMCs. In this study, the effect of reinforcement clustering on the microcrack initiation mechanism in a cast hybrid MMC reinforced with SiC particles and Al2O3 whiskers was investigated experimentally and numerically. Experimental results showed that microcracks always initiated in the particle-matrix interface, located in the cluster of the reinforcements. The interface debonding occurred in the fracture which created additional secondary microcracks due to continued fatigue cycling. The microcrack coalesced with other nearby microcracks caused the final fracture. To validate the experimental results on the microcrack initiation, three dimensional unit cell models using finite element method (FEM) were developed. The stress distribution in both the reinforcement clustering and non-clustering regions was analyzed. The numerical analysis showed that high stresses were developed on the reinforcements located in the clustering region and stress concentration occurred on the particle-matrix interface. The high volume fraction reinforced hybrid clustering region experienced greater stresses than that of the SiC particulate reinforced clustering region and low volume fraction reinforced hybrid clustering region. Besides, the stresses developed on the non-clustering region with particle-whisker series orientation were reasonably higher than that of the non-clustering region with particle-whisker parallel orientation. The high volume fraction reinforced hybrid clustering region is found to be highly vulnerable to initiate crack in cast hybrid MMC during low cycle fatigue.
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