Atomistic simulations to characterize the influence of applied strain and PKA energy on radiation damage evolution in pure aluminum

QUA Sahi and YS Kim, EUROPEAN PHYSICAL JOURNAL B, 91, 80 (2018).

DOI: 10.1140/epjb/e2018-90061-5

Knowledge of defects generation, their mobility, growth rate, and spatial distribution is the cornerstone for understanding the surface and structural evolution of a material used under irradiation conditions. In this study, molecular dynamics simulations were used to investigate the coupled effect of primary knock-on atom (PKA) energy and applied strain (uniaxial and hydrostatic) fields on primary radiation damage evolution in pure aluminum. Cascade damage simulations were carried out for PKA energy ranging between 1 and 20 keV and for applied strain values ranging between -2% and 2% at the fixed temperature of 300 K. Simulation results showed that as the atomic displacement cascade proceeds under uniaxial and hydrostatic strains, the peak and surviving number of Frenkel point defects increases with increasing tension; however, these increments were more prominent under larger volume changing deformations (hydrostatic strain). The percentage fraction of point defects that aggregate into clusters increases under tension conditions; compared to the reference conditions with no strain, these increases are around 13% and 7% for interstitials and vacancies, respectively (under 2% uniaxial strain), and 19% and 11% for interstitials and vacancies, respectively (under 2% hydrostatic strain). Clusters formed of vacancies and interstitials were both larger under tensile strain conditions, with increases in both the average and maximum cluster sizes. The rate of increase/decrease in the number of Frenkel pairs, their clustering, and their size distributions under expansion/compression strain conditions were higher for higher PKA energies. Overall, the present results suggest that strain effects should be considered carefully in radiation damage environments, specifically for conditions of low temperature and high radiation energy. Compressive strain conditions could be beneficial for materials used in nuclear reactor power systems.

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