First-Principles Surface Interaction Studies of Aluminum-Copper and Aluminum-Copper-Magnesium Secondary Phases in Aluminum Alloys

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First-principles density functional theory-based calculations were performed to study θ-phase Al2Cu, S-phase Al2CuMg surface stability, as well as their interactions with water molecules and chloride (Cl) ions. These secondary phases are commonly found in aluminum-based alloys and are initiation points for localized corrosion. Density functional theory (DFT)-based simulations provide insight into the origins of localized (pitting) corrosion processes of aluminum-based alloys. For both phases studied, Cl ions cause atomic distortions on the surface layers. The nature of the distortions could be a factor to weaken the interlayer bonds in the Al2Cu and Al2CuMg secondary phases, facilitating the corrosion process. Electronic structure calculations revealed not only electron charge transfer from Cl ions to alloy surface but also electron sharing, suggesting ionic and covalent bonding features, respectively. The S-phase Al2CuMg structure has a more active surface than the θ-phase Al2Cu. We also found a higher tendency of formation of new species, such as Al3+, Al(OH)2+, HCl, AlCl2+, Al(OH)Cl+, and Cl2 on the S-phase Al2CuMg surface. Surface chemical reactions and resultant species present contribute to establishment of local surface chemistry that influences the corrosion behavior of aluminum alloys.