Suppression of helium bubble nucleation in beryllium exposed tungsten surfaces

MA Cusentino and MA Wood and AP Thompson, NUCLEAR FUSION, 60, 126018 (2020).

DOI: 10.1088/1741-4326/abb148

One of the most severe obstacles to increasing the longevity of tungsten-based plasma facing components, such as divertor tiles, is the surface deterioration driven by sub-surface helium bubble formation and rupture. Supported by experimental observations at PISCES, this work uses molecular dynamics simulations to identify the microscopic mechanisms underlying suppression of helium bubble formation by the introduction of plasma-borne beryllium. Simulations of the initial surface material (crystalline W), early-time Be exposure (amorphous W-Be) and final WBe(2)intermetallic surfaces were used to highlight the effect of Be. Significant differences in He retention, depth distribution and cluster size were observed in the cases with beryllium present. Helium resided much closer to the surface in the Be cases with nearly 80% of the total helium inventory located within the first 2 nm. Moreover, coarsening of the He depth profile due to bubble formation is suppressed due to a one-hundred fold decrease in He mobility in WBe2, relative to crystalline W. This is further evidenced by the drastic reduction in He cluster sizes even when it was observed that both the amorphous W-Be and WBe(2)intermetallic phases retain nearly twice as much He during cumulative implantation studies.

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