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The microstructures that result when a solution of metal of eutectic composition solidifies. The eutectic reaction must be distinguished from eutectic microstructures. The eutectic reaction is a reversible transformation of a liquid solution to two or more solids, under constant pressure conditions, at a constant temperature denoted as the eutectic temperature. Microstructures which are wholly eutectic in nature can occur only for a single, fixed composition in each alloy system demonstrating the reaction.
Although technologically important alloy systems, particularly the Fe-C system (all cast irons used commercially pass through a eutectic reaction during solidification), exhibit at least one eutectic reaction, there has been little exploitation of wholly eutectic microstructures for structural purposes. Some eutectic fusible alloys are used as solders, as heat-transfer media, for punch and die mold and pattern applications, and as safety plugs. A silver-copper eutectic alloy is also used for high-temperature soldering applications. See Soldering
Directional solidification of eutectic alloys so as to create a microstructure well aligned parallel to the growth direction produces high-strength, multiphase composite materials with excellent mechanical properties. Among the major advantages of these alloys are extraordinary thermal stability of unstressed microstructures, retention of high strength to very close to the eutectic temperature of the respective alloys, and the ability to optimize strength by appropriate alloying additions to induce either solid-solution strengthening or intraphase precipitation of additional phases.
The most likely future applications for aligned eutectics are as gas turbine engine materials (turbine blades or stator vanes) or in nonstructural applications such as superconducting devices in which directionality of physical properties is important. See Alloy, Metal