AbstractThe influence of Al (0.5 wt%, 1 wt%, 2 wt%) on the microstructural evolution and creep resistance of Mg-2.85Nd-0.92Gd-0.41Zr-0.29Zn (El21) alloy was systematically investigated. The creep results revealed that the additions of 0.5 wt% and 1 wt% Al significantly decreased the creep rate of El21 by more than an order of magnitude, whereas 2 wt% Al in El21 led to the reduction of creep properties. Microstructural analyses indicated that the additions of 0.5 wt% and 1 wt% Al led to significant grain coarsening due to the consumption of Zr via the formation of Al2Zr3 and Al2Zr phases. In contrast, the addition of 2 wt% Al caused distinct grain refinement, resulting from the additional formation of lumpy Al2RE in the centre of α-Mg grains. Additionally, the increase of Al content in the El21 gradually led to the disappearance of the Mg3RE phase and left Al2RE as the only dominant phase. The main Al–Zr phase was also changed from Al2Zr3+Al2Zr to Al2Zr phase. Creep data analysis showed that the dominant creep mechanism was dislocation creep for all alloys, which was in agreement with the EBSD and TEM characterizations. The enhanced creep resistance via the addition of 0.5 wt% and 1 wt% Al was ascribed to the high area fraction of intermetallic phases and the additional formation of the thermally stable Al2RE phase. El21 + 0.5Al has better creep resistance than El21+1Al, which was attributed to its stronger dynamic precipitation strengthening from γ precipitates. The deteriorated creep properties caused by adding 2 wt% Al in El21 alloy arose from the bimodal inhomogeneous distribution of grains and the laminar Al2RE phase. Such microstructure might cause significant stress concentrations and could not effectively impede dislocation motion or reinforce the grain/dendritic boundaries during creep, thus deteriorating the creep properties of El21+2Al.