As mentioned in my article last month, it is critically important to be aware of the vapor pressures of any materials that are processed at elevated temperatures in a vacuum-furnace, because a vacuum can effectively lower the temperature at which a particular material will volatilize (outgas). We learned that you should never try to vacuum-braze brass, a copper-alloy which contains zinc (Zn), because Zn is a metallic element which can easily volatize when heated. The same is true for cadmium (Cd), a metallic element that is added to a number of silver-based brazing filler metals (BFMs) to lower its melting temp and improve wetting (such as in AWS A5.8, Class BAg-1).
Magnesium (Mg) is another metal (see Fig. 1) that, when heated in a vacuum, can also volatilize quite easily, and should therefore (like Zn and Cd) never be used in any vacuum furnace used for high-temp aerospace brazing of stainless or super-alloy base metals, since Mg contamination in such furnaces could ruin the furnace, rendering it non-useable ever again for any critical high-temp aerospace applications.
Does this rule out Mg from ever being used in any vacuum furnace? No, it does not. Some vacuum furnaces are built with the express purpose of allowing Mg to be used in them when brazing one specific type of base metal – aluminum (or aluminum as many prefer to spell it)! Vacuum furnaces built for brazing aluminum are unique – they are built to operate at just about half the temperature needed for high-temp aero brazing, they use different kinds of metals for their heating elements and hot-zones, and have much tighter temp-control than their higher-temp aerospace-brazing cousins. We’ve discussed all this before in previous articles on the subject.