For more than six decades, chromic acid anodizing has been the main step in the surface treatment of aluminum for adhesively bonded aircraft structures. Soon this process, known for producing a readily adherent oxide with an excellent corrosion resistance, will be banned by strict international environmental and health regulations. Replacing this traditional process in a high-demanding and high-risk industry such as aircraft construction requires an in-depth understanding of the underlying adhesion and degradation mechanisms at the oxide/resin interface resulting from alternative processes. The relationship between the anodizing conditions in sulfuric and mixtures of sulfuric and phosphoric acid electrolytes and the formation and durability of bonding under various environmental conditions was investigated. Scanning electron microscopy was used to characterize the oxide features. Selected specimens were studied with transmission electron microscopy coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy to measure resin concentration within structurally different porous anodic oxide layers as a function of depth. Results show that there are two critical morphological aspects for strong and durable bonding. First, a minimum pore size is pivotal for the formation of a stable interface, as reflected by the initial peel strengths. Second, the increased surface roughness of the oxide/resin interface caused by extended chemical dissolution at higher temperature and higher phosphoric acid concentration is crucial to assure bond durability under water ingress. There is, however, an upper limit to the beneficial amount of anodic dissolution above which bonds are prone for corrosive degradation. Morphology is, however, not the only prerequisite for good bonding and bond performance also depends on the oxides’ chemical composition.
- Metals and alloys
- Organic–inorganic nanostructures