Radiation damage and inert gas bubbles in metals
2015-06-18T14:49:40Z (GMT) by
Inert gases in metals can occur due to ion implantation, from a plasma in a magnetron device or as a result of being by-products of nuclear reactions. Mainly because of the nuclear applications, the properties of the inert gases, helium, argon and xenon in the body centred cubic (bcc) iron crystal are examined theoretically using a combination of molecular dynamics, static energy minimisation and long time scale techniques using empirical potential functions. The same techniques are also used to investigate argon and xenon in aluminium. The primary interest of the work occurred because of He produced in nuclear fission and its effect on the structural materials of a fission reactor. This structure is modelled with perfectly crystalline bcc Fe. In bcc iron, helium is shown to diffuse rapidly forming small bubbles over picosecond time scales, which reach a certain optimum size. In the initial phase of He accumulation, Fe interstitials are ejected. This occurs instantaneously for bubbles containing 5 He atoms and as the more He accumulates, more Fe interstitials are ejected. The most energetically favourable He to vacancy ratios at 0 K, vary from 1 : 1 for 5 vacancies up to about 4 : 1 for larger numbers of vacancies. An existing He bubble can be enlarged by a nearby collision cascade through the ejection of Fe interstitials, allowing more He to be trapped. Ar and Xe in bcc Fe prefer to be substitutional rather than interstitial and there are large barriers to be overcome for the inert gas atoms to diffuse from a substitutional site. Bubbles that form can again be enlarged by the presence of a nearby collision cascade or at very high temperatures. In this case the most energetically favourable vacancy ratios in the bubbles is 1: 1 for Ar and from 0.6: 1 to 0.8: 1 for Xe. For Ar and Xe, bubble formation is more likely as a direct result of radiation or radiation enhanced diffusion rather than diffusion from a substitutional site. Ar in aluminium is also studied. Ar atoms in fcc Al prefer to be substitutional rather than interstitial and evolution into substitutional occurs over picosecond time scales at room temperature. Bubble formation can occur more easily than in bcc iron, mainly because the barriers for vacancy diffusion are much lower but the time scales for bubble accumulation are much longer than those for He. A vacancy assisted mechanism is found which allows Ar to diffuse through the lattice. Finally some preliminary results on the energetics of different geometrical structures of larger Xe bubbles in Al are investigated since experiment has indicated that these can become facetted.