Scaling laws and stability of nano-sized defect clusters in niobium via atomistic simulations and statistical analysis

D Vizoso and C Deo and R Dingreville, JOURNAL OF MATERIALS SCIENCE, 54, 14002-14028 (2019).

DOI: 10.1007/s10853-019-03885-y

The predictions of scaling laws for the structure and properties of defect clusters are generally limited to small defect clusters in their ground-state configurations. We investigated the size and geometrical configuration dependence of nano-sized defect clusters in niobium (Nb) using molecular dynamics. We studied the structure and stability of large clusters of size up to fifty defects for vacancies and one hundred defects for interstitials, as well as the role of helium and metastable configurations on the stability of these clusters. We compared three different interatomic potentials in order to determine the relative stability of these clusters as a function of their size and geometrical configurations. Additionally, we conducted a statistical analysis to predict the formation and binding energies of interstitial clusters as a function of both their size and configuration. We find that the size dependence of vacancy and interstitial clusters can be approximated by functional forms that account for bulk and surface effects as well as some considerations of elastic interactions. We also find that helium and metastable configurations can make vacancy and interstitial clusters thermally stable depending on the configuration. Our parameterized functional forms for the formation and binding energies are valid for a very broad range of defect sizes and configurations making it possible to be used directly in a coarse-grained modeling strategy such as Monte Carlo, cluster dynamics or dislocation dynamics which look at defect accumulation and evolution in microstructures.

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