Energy landscape of defects in body-centered cubic metals.

Abstract : The structural materials in nuclear reactors are subjected to severe irradiation conditions,leading to changes in their mechanical properties. The aging of these materials raises important issuessuch as those related to the safety of existing plants and future reactors. In many cases, materials withbody-centered cubic bcc crystal structure are used with iron, tungsten, vanadium and tantalum as basemetal. Collisions between irradiating particles and atoms constituting materials generate point defectswhose migration leads to the formation of clusters responsible for aging. In this thesis, we studied theenergetic properties of point defects in the bcc metals mentioned above at the atomic scale. Modelingpoint defects at the atomic scale can be achieved with different methods that differ only in the quality ofthe description of the interaction between atoms. Studies using accurate atomic interactions such ab initiocalculations are computationally costly making it impossible to directly study clusters of large sizes. Themodeling of atomic interactions using semi-empirical potentials reduces the reliability of predictivecalculations but allow calculations for large-sized clusters. In this thesis we have developed a uniqueenergy model for dislocation loops as well as for three-dimensional interstitial cluster of type C15. Theresulting model has no size limit and can be set entirely by ab initio calculations. To test its robustness forlarge sizes of clusters we also set this model with semi-empirical potentials calculations and comparedthe predictions of the model to atomic simulations. With our development we have determined: (i) Therelative stability of interstitial dislocation loops according to their Burgers vectors. (ii) The stability of theclusters C15 compared to the type of cluster loop. We showed that the C15 type clusters are more stablewhen they involve less than 41 interstitials in iron. (iii) In Ta we were able to show the same stability till20 interstitials. The experiments involving iron show that depending on the irradiation temperature,highly mobile dislocation loops of Burgers vector ½ <111> or loops with Burgers vector <100> areformed. Considering formation mechanisms under irradiation as a function of temperature, formation ofthe <100>-type clusters lacked an acceptable theoretical explanation for about 50 years. In this thesis, theaccuracy of our energy model enabled validation of several theories proposed in the last 50 years. Inparticular we have shown that the formation of loops <100> at high temperatures can be formed fromC15 clusters which may be created directly in the irradiation process. These clusters are immobile andcan grow. Beyond a certain size, the C15 clusters dissociate into loops ½ <111> or <100>. We haveextended our model to free energy calculation of defect formation allowing for finite temperaturepredictions which is further compared to atomic simulations. The laws established in this thesis using ourmodel to calculate the free energy of formation of the cluster size functions were then used in a clusterdynamics simulation. On comparison with experiments involving post-irradiation Oswald ripening in asample of iron exposed to an atmosphere of helium, our energy model showed significant improvementsover older energy laws, such as the capillary law widely-used in multiscale computation cluster dynamicsor Monte Carlo kinetics. We conclude that the new laws established from our calculations are essential topredict the concentration of dislocation loop under irradiation, depending on their sizes. The success ofsuch an approach encourages extension of a similar study in more complex materials.
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Rebecca Alexander. Energy landscape of defects in body-centered cubic metals.. Materials Science [cond-mat.mtrl-sci]. Université Paris-Saclay, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016SACLX072⟩. ⟨tel-01493117⟩

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