Atomistic Study on the Energetic and Mechanical Behaviors of Helium Bubbles Nucleation and Growth in RAFM Steel

SH Sun and JY Shi and LL Li and L Peng, FUSION SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (2021).

DOI: 10.1080/15361055.2021.1962120

Helium produced by neutron irradiation is a crucial inducement to bring about the property of deterioration of structural materials served in a fusion reactor. To investigate the nucleation and growth behavior of helium bubbles in reduced activation ferritic/martensitic steels, which comprise one of the most promising candidate structural materials, the Molecular Statics method and the Metropolis Monte Carlo algorithm are combined to investigate the energetic and mechanical behaviors of HenVm clusters in alpha-Fe. The simulation results show that the vacancy and helium atom binding energy are inclined to reach a saturation state, i.e., 4.0 eV for the vacancy and 2.4 eV for the helium atom; however, the binding energy of self-interstitial atoms decreases to minus values at high helium-to-vacancy (He/V) ratios. The crossover of the binding energy curve of the helium and vacancy indicates that the equilibrium He/V ratio is 1.68 during the nucleation of helium bubbles. Meanwhile, the dissociation energy analysis indicates that the stable He/V ratio of the clusters is 1.3 at high temperatures. Moreover, the pressure analysis of the HenVm clusters indicates that the He/V ratio corresponding to their mechanical equilibrium state varies from 0.50 to 0.65 at 0 K. Furthermore, the analysis combined with the relevant experimental data of helium density in helium bubbles indicates that the actual He/V ratio of helium bubbles in the served materials is closely relevant to the irradiation condition, such as helium production rate, temperature, etc. The investigation results in this paper contribute to elucidate the microscopic process of helium bubble nucleation and growth and provides the energetic and mechanical parameters of small-sized helium bubbles with different sizes for large-scale simulation studies.

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