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Characterization of irradiation-induced microstructure in reactor pressure vessel steels
Ulbricht, A.; Bergner, F.; Keiderling, U.;
SANS contributed significantly to the understanding of the behaviour of reactor pressure vessel (RPV) steels exposed to irradiation with fast neutrons. It allows macroscopically representative, statistically reliable and robust measures of size, volume fraction and number density of nmsized solute clusters to be obtained. In particular, the use of the ferromagnetic properties of the matrix allows, under certain assumptions, the exact determination of the scattering contrast and thus the absolute volume fraction. The lower detection limit in terms of volume fraction is typically about 0.005%. The A-ratio, that is the total-to-nuclear scattering ratio, can be used as one-parameter signature of the mean composition of irradiation-induced clusters. Major limitations of SANS are related to the uncertainty of the scattering contrast (cluster composition, magnetism) and to the lower detection limit. Especially because of the incoherent scattering contribution of different iron isotopes, the lower detection limit is approximately 0.5 nm in terms of radius. The unirradiated reference condition of a RPV steel exhibits a high scattering background essentially caused by different sizes of carbides and should be carefully subtracted from the investigated neutron-damaged condition.
In the present work we give an overview about major influence factors on irradiation-induced microstructural changes. Increase of neutron exposure gives rise to an increase of the volume fraction of solute clusters. This susceptibility is essentially determined by the existing alloying elements and impurities. Cu-rich precipitates are the dominant type of nanofeatures in Cubearing steels (Cu> 0.1wt%) and Mn-Ni-(Si) precipitates or their nonequilibrium precursors are the dominant type of nanofeatures in low-Cu, Mn-Ni-alloyed ferritic materials. The size of clusters remains small and does not exceed a radius of 4 nm. In recent years, research was focussed on the transferability from accelerated irradiations to real operation conditions of materials in a power reactor, for instance the effect of neutron flux on irradiation-induced damage. Here, SANS results show a clear trend. The size distribution of low flux condition is shifted towards larger radii. The effect of neutron flux on the volume fraction of irradiationinduced clusters is not so obvious. There seems to be a trend that the cluster volume fraction decreases at increasing flux. Here, the detection limits of SANS (very small clusters and/or reduced scattering contrast) and the uncertainties of the irradiation conditions possibly hide an explicit flux dependence. Differences in the A-ratio were not observed for flux pairs of one and the same material. Thus, no significant changes of cluster composition appear at different fluxes.
Strong and robust correlations between SANS-based characteristics of irradiation-induced clusters, such as (the square-root of) volume fraction and irradiation-induced changes of mechanical properties, such as Vickers hardness, yield stress or brittle/ductile transition temperature are confirmed.
Keywords: small-angle neutron scattering, irradiation-induced clusters, reactor pressure vessel steel
  • Poster
    canSAS XI workshop, 08.-11.07.2019, Freising, Deutschland

Publ.-Id: 29440 - Permalink