Radiation Damage in Nanostructured Metallic Films



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High energy neutron and charged particle radiation cause microstructural and mechanical degradation in structural metals and alloys, such as phase segregation, void swelling, embrittlement and creep. Radiation induced damages typically limit nuclear materials to a lifetime of about 40 years. Next generation nuclear reactors require materials that can sustain over 60 - 80 years. Therefore it is of great significance to explore new materials with better radiation resistance, to design metals with favorable microstructures and to investigate their response to radiation. The goals of this thesis are to study the radiation responses of several nanostructured metallic thin film systems, including Ag/Ni multilayers, nanotwinned Ag and nanocrystalline Fe. Such systems obtain high volume fraction of boundaries, which are considered sinks to radiation induced defects. From the viewpoint of nanomechanics, it is of interest to investigate the plastic deformation mechanisms of nanostructured films, which typically show strong size dependence. By controlling the feature size (layer thickness, twin spacing and grain size), it is applicable to picture a deformation mechanism map which also provides prerequisite information for subsequent radiation hardening study. And from the viewpoint of radiation effects, it is of interest to explore the fundamentals of radiation response, to examine the microstructural and mechanical variations of irradiated nanometals and to enrich the design database. More importantly, with the assistance of in situ techniques, it is appealing to examine the defect generation, evolution, annihilation, absorption and interaction with internal interfaces (layer interfaces, twin boundaries and grain boundaries). Moreover, well-designed nanostructures can also verify the speculation that radiation induced defect density and hardening show clear size dependence. The focus of this thesis lies in the radiation response of Ag/Ni multilayers and nanotwinned Ag subjected to charged particles. The radiation effects in irradiated nanograined Fe are also investigated for comparison.

Radiation responses in these nanostructured metallic films suggest that immiscible incoherent Ag/Ni multilayers are more resistant to radiation in comparison to their monolithic counterparts. Their mechanical properties and radiation response show strong layer thickness dependence in terms of radiation hardening and defect density. Coherent twin boundaries can interact with stacking fault tetrahedral and remove them effectively. Twin boundaries can actively absorb radiation induced defects and defect clusters resulting in boundary migration. Size dependence is also found in nanograins where fewer defects exhibit in films with smaller grains.