The addition of scandium to aluminium creates nanoscale Al3Sc precipitates which limit the excessive grain growth that occurs in the heat-affected zone of welded aluminium components. This has two beneficial effects: the precipitated Al3Sc forms smaller crystals than are formed in other aluminium alloys and the width of precipitate-free zones that normally exist at the grain boundaries of age-hardenenable aluminium alloys is reduced.
Scandium is also a potent grain refiner in cast aluminium alloys, and atom for atom, the most potent strengthener in aluminium, both as a result of grain refinement and precipitation strengthening. However, titanium alloys, which are stronger but heavier, are cheaper and much more widely used.
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