The morphological features of 2024-T3 aluminum alloy were delineated using atomic force microscopy (AFM) during separate and combined actions of corrosion and fatigue.
In-situ AFM corrosion studies in hydrochloric acid environments without mechanical deformation showed accelerated dissolution in the vicinity of second phase precipitates leading to intergranular corrosion. During fatigue in air, AFM images revealed steps along grain boundaries, as well as parallel extrusions and intrusions during the early stages of fatigue life. At later stages of mechanical deformation persistent slip bands (PSBs) were observed on the sample's surface. Cracks were observed to nucleate and propagate along PSBs. For experiments where samples were subjected to the simultaneous action of a corrosive environment and mechanical deformation, intergranular cracking was observed during the early stages of fatigue life. The corrosive environment was observed to accelerate the crack nucleation process.