Mechanical properties of an irradiated nanocluster strengthened high-chromium ferritic alloy



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Advanced nano-structured ferritic alloys (NFAs) containing a high density of ultra-fine (2-5 nm) nanoclusters (NCs) enriched in Y, Ti, and O are considered promising candidates for structural components in future nuclear systems. The superior tensile strengths of NFAs relative to conventional oxide dispersion strengthened (ODS) ferritic alloys are attributed to the high number density of NCs, which may provide effective trapping centers for point defects and transmutation products generated during neutron irradiation. This study consists of production, irradiation, and characterization of an advanced NFA, designated 14YWT, currently being developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The purpose of this study was to characterize the tensile and fracture toughness properties of 14YWT produced during this project at ORNL before and after irradiation to evaluate it's resistance to radiation-induced changes in mechanical properties. Another alloy, designated 14WT, was produced during this project using identical production parameters used for 14YWT but without the Y2O3 addition during ball milling required for NC formation. Tensile and fracture toughness specimens were produced from both alloys and irradiated in small "rabbit" capsules in the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) at ORNL. Five other structural alloys that are currently being evaluated for applications in nuclear environments were irradiated and tested during this project to serve as comparison materials. Microstructural characterization was performed using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and atom probe tomography. Tensile strengths for 14YWT were found to be far superior to the other alloys for both irradiated and unirradiated conditions, with yield strength for 14YWT decreasing from ~1,450 MPa at 26°C to ~700 MPa at 600°C. Moderate radiationinduced hardening (50-200 MPa) and reduction in ductility was observed for 14YWT for all irradiation conditions and test temperatures. Fracture toughness results showed 14YWT in the unirradiated condition had a fracture toughness transition temperature (FTTT) around -150°C and upper-shelf K[subscript JIc] values around 175 MPa m. Results from irradiated 14YWT fracture toughness tests were found to closely mirror the unirradiated data and no shift in FTTT or decrease in K[subscript JIc] values were observed following neutron irradiation to 1.5 dpa at 300°C. Master curve analysis of the fracture toughness data show 14YWT to have a T[subscript o] reference temperature of -188 and -176°C in the unirradiated and irradiated condition, respectively, which is unprecedented for a high-strength dispersion strengthened ferritic alloy. The results from this study show 14YWT to be resistant to radiation-induced changes in mechanical properties and a promising candidate for structural applications in future nuclear systems.