Low hardness and wear resistance of aluminum alloys limit their use in practical application to automotive parts. Formation of hard aluminum nitride (AlN) layer on the surface can prolong the life time of aluminum automotive parts. Plasma nitriding was selected in the present study to form AlN layer on aluminum alloys. This processing is an environmental friendly method because of its low gas and energy consumption. Normal plasma nitriding requires long processing time to successfully form AlN layer. For advancing this surface treatment, refining microstructure and micro-alloying processes are proposed to activate the formation of AlN by plasma nitriding. Bulk Mechanical Alloying is used not only to make grain-size refinement but also to carry out micro alloying with addition of 1 mass%Ti. The formation rate of AlN layer is improved from 4.2 × 10-5 μm/s to 20.8 × 10-5 μ/s by microstructure refining. In particular, since the co-formed TiN with AlN works as a template in the initial state nitriding, the micro-alloyed aluminum can be nitrided even without pre-sputtering.
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