Toward Understanding Dynamic Annealing Processes in Irradiated Ceramics



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High energy particle irradiation inevitably generates defects in solids in the form of collision cascades. The ballistic formation and thermalization of cascades occur rapidly and are believed to be reasonably well understood. However, knowledge of the evolution of defects after damage cascade thermalization, referred to as dynamic annealing, is quite limited. Unraveling the mechanisms associated with dynamic annealing is crucial since such processes play an important role in the formation of stable post-irradiation disorder in ion-beam-processed semiconductors and determines the ?radiation tolerance? of many nuclear materials. The purpose of this dissertation is to further our understanding of the processes involved in dynamic annealing. In order to achieve this, two main tasks are undertaken.

First, the effects of dynamic annealing are investigated in ZnO, a technologically relevant material that exhibits very high dynamic defect annealing at room temperature. Such high dynamic annealing leads to unusual defect accumulation in heavy ion bombarded ZnO. Through this work, the puzzling features that were observed more than a decade ago in ion-channeling spectra have finally been explained. We show that the presence of a polar surface substantially alters damage accumulation. Non-polar surface terminations of ZnO are shown to exhibit enhanced dynamic annealing compared to polar surface terminated ZnO. Additionally, we demonstrate one method to reduce radiation damage in polar surface terminated ZnO by means of a surface modification. These results advance our efforts in the long-sought-after goal of understanding complex radiation damage processes in ceramics.

Second, a pulsed-ion-beam method is developed and demonstrated in the case of Si as a prototypical non-metallic target. Such a method is shown to be a novel experimental technique for direct extraction of dynamic annealing parameters. The relaxation times and effective diffusion lengths of mobile defects during the dynamic annealing process play a vital role in damage accumulation. We demonstrate that these parameters dominate the formation of stable post-irradiation disorder. In Si, a defect lifetime of ? 6 ms and a characteristic defect diffusion length of ? 30 nm are measured. These results should nucleate future pulsed-beam studies of dynamic defect interaction processes in technologically relevant materials. In particular, understanding length- and time-scales of defect interactions are essential for extending laboratory findings to nuclear material lifetimes and to the time-scales of geological storage of nuclear waste.