Molecular dynamics studies of lattice defect effects on tritium diffusion in zirconium

R Skelton and XW Zhou and RA Karnesky, JOURNAL OF NUCLEAR MATERIALS, 555, 153099 (2021).

DOI: 10.1016/j.jnucmat.2021.153099

Tritium diffusion in alpha-Zr containing point defects such as vacancies or self-interstitial atoms (SIAs) is simulated using molecular dynamics. Point defects rapidly aggregate to form extended defects, such as 3D nanoclusters and Frank loops. The geometry of extended defects is affected by the presence of tritium. At low temperature and in the absence of tritium, vacancies aggregate to form stacking fault pyramids. Addition of tritium at these temperatures promotes aggregation of vacancies to form 3D nanoclusters, within which the tritium concentration can be sufficiently high to suggest that these defects may serve as nucleation sites for hydride precipitation. Trapping of tritium in vacancy nanocluster reduces the calculated bulk diffusivity by an amount proportional to the vacancy concentration. At high temperature, vacancy clusters change shape to form planar basal dislocation loops, which bind tritium less strongly, leading to a sharp reduction in the fraction of trapped tritium and a corresponding increase in tritium diffusivity at high temperature. In contrast, SIAs increase tritium diffusion through alpha-Zr. Analysis of atomic trajectories shows that tritium does not interact directly with SIAs. Diffusion enhancement is instead related to expansion of the lattice. (C) 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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