Synergistic effects in hydrogen-helium bubbles

E Hayward and C Deo, JOURNAL OF PHYSICS-CONDENSED MATTER, 24, 265402 (2012).

DOI: 10.1088/0953-8984/24/26/265402

The detrimental effects of hydrogen and helium on structural materials undergoing irradiation are well documented, if not well understood. There is experimental evidence to suggest that a synergistic effect between the two elements exists, which results in increased damage when both are present. This situation is expected in the next generation of fusion and fission reactors, so a fundamental understanding of these synergistic interactions is needed to predict materials performance. We perform atomistic simulations of hydrogen and helium bubbles in body- centered cubic iron to determine the mechanism behind this effect. We first develop an interatomic potential suitable for describing the interactions between hydrogen and helium. Through analysis of the energetics and structure of these bubbles, we explain the observed synergy as a consequence of bubble growth through helium induced loop punching, aided by the presence of hydrogen, instead of as a direct interaction between hydrogen and helium. The hydrogen benefits from an increased area of free surface on which to bind.

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