Nucleation of helium in pure liquid lithium

E Alvarez-Galera and J Marti and F Mazzanti and L Batet, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 159, 024501 (2023).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0152704

Tritium self-sufficiency in fusion nuclear reactors will be based on the neutron capture by lithium in the so-called breeding blankets of the reactor, a nuclear reaction that will produce helium along with tritium. The low solubility of helium in liquid metals could cause the eventual formation of helium bubbles, which may have a negative impact on the performance of the breeding blanket in a way that has yet to be fully understood. In this work, we provide deep insight into the behavior of lithium and helium mixtures at experimentally operating conditions (800 K and pressures between 1 and 100 bars) using a microscopic model suitable to describe the interactions between helium and lithium at the atomic level, in excellent agreement with available experimental data. The simulations predict the formation of helium bubbles with radii around 10 & ANGS; at ambient pressure with surface tension values in the range of 0.6-1.0 N/m. We also report the cohesive energies of helium and the work of formation of the cluster of atoms, as well as a quantitative estimation of the Hildebrand and Kumar cohesion parameters. Our results indicate that the segregation between He and Li atoms is strong, and once a bubble is formed, it never dissociates.

Return to Publications page