Book Review: Aluminum-Lithium Alloys (US)

Written by three Russian metallurgists, with a trove of experience in Al-Li alloy development and processing spanning many decades, Aluminum-Lithium Alloys (part of the Advances in Metallic Alloys series edited by D.G. Eskin) provides the theoretical foundations for melting, casting, forming, heat treatment, and welding of Al-Li alloys, so critical in the design of lightweight, high performance structural elements used primarily in civilian and military aircraft and aerospace in general. The book reviews the work done on Al-Li alloys since the 1960s until today, showing how the development of older Al-Mg-Li and Al-Cu-Li alloys has improved in terms of mechanical properties through selective changes in alloying and processing. The book was written for an audience of engineers and scientists involved in the research, development, and application of these alloys in modern aircraft and aerospace structures. The lead author, Dr. Sci. Olga Grushko, has worked at the All-Russian Research Institute of Aviation Materials (VIAM) since 1959, where she now serves as a chief scientist, well known as a leader in the field of new Al-Li alloys. Co-author Dr. Boris Ovsyannikov, chief metallurgist and head of R&D at the Kamensk-Uralsky Metallurgical Works, has developed casting production methods for Al-Li alloys, including new classes of Al-Li alloys containing scandium. And, co-author Prof. Dr. Sci. Viktor Ovchinnikov, head of the welding laboratory at the Russian Aircraft Corporation JSC, has developed manufacturing techniques for the welding of aircraft structures made of Al-Li alloys. This “troika” of authors has pulled together 265 references, mainly from Russian technical sources, and summarized the vast literature in eight concise and readable chapters, detailing not only the theoretical basis of Al-Li alloying but all the practical aspects of their production and fabrication. The authors’ have amongst themselves hundreds of technical publications, several of which are referenced in the book, and many inventions dealing with commercialization of Al-Li alloys.

In Chapter 1 – Brief History of Aluminum-Lithium Alloy Creation, the development of the first Al-Li alloys in the 1950s is described with the impetus being the specific gravity of lithium at 0.536 against that of aluminum at 2.699; these early Al-Li alloys were based on the Al-Cu-Li system and included 2020 (USA) and VAD23 (USSR). Besides being ~3% lighter, these alloys were ~8% stronger than the conventional 2024 and D16 hard alloys. However, the authors point to the breakthrough Al-5.5Mg-2Li alloy 1420, developed in Russia in the 1960s, which is the lightest commercial aluminum alloy in use today, being 10-12% lighter than the 2xxx series alloys used for the fuselage of aircraft at the same strength levels and with higher corrosion resistance. Chapter after chapter here, the 1420 alloy merits most of the attention in this book (Figure 1), with significant modification to its composition over the years leading to improvements in processing and fabrication, the latest involving the modified alloy 1421 containing 0.16-0.21 Sc. Because of the importance of alloys in the Al-Cu-Li system, registered since the 1980s in the U.S., France, and England, and the basis of several Russian alloys including 1450, 1460, and the original 1230 (VAD23) alloy, they are also covered.

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