Researchers at Texas A&M University recently demonstrated the excellent properties of a new type of oxide dispersion strengthened (ODS) alloy, which they developed for use in fission and fusion reactors.
Professor Lin Shao of the Department of Nuclear Engineering collaborated with research scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Hokkaido University to create the next generation of high-performance ODS alloys, which are one of the strongest and most advanced metals in the field to date.
ODS alloy is a mixture of metal and small nano-oxide particles and is known for its high creep resistance. This means that as the temperature increases, the material retains its shape instead of deforming. Many ODS alloys can withstand temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Celsius and are commonly used in engines and tableware in power generation and aerospace engineering.
The nuclear industry needs reliable and durable materials to form the core components of nuclear reactors. The material must have high strength, radiation resistance and resistance to cavity expansion (the material will form a cavity when exposed to neutron radiation, leading to mechanical failure).
Nuclear researchers have been looking for high-quality creep and expansion-resistant materials for high-temperature reactors.
Shao said: “Generally speaking, ODS alloys should be resistant to swelling under extreme neutron irradiation. However, most commercial ODS alloys have problems from the beginning.”
This is because almost all commercial ODS alloys are based on the ferrite phase. Ferrite alloys are classified according to their crystal structure and metallurgical properties, and have good plasticity and reasonable high temperature strength. However, when the ferrite phase is the weakest stage, its swelling resistance is judged. Therefore, most commercial ODS alloys fail the first line of defense.
Dr. Lin Shao is well-known for his pioneering work in radiation materials science. He directs the accelerator laboratory to test alloys under extreme radiation conditions. His research team cooperated with the research team of Hokkaido University in Japan, led by Dr. Shigeharu Ukai, and developed various new ODS alloys.
“We decided to explore a new design principle, that is, the oxide particles are embedded in the martensite phase, which is the best way to reduce void expansion, not the ferrite phase.” Shao said.
The resulting ODS alloy can withstand 400 displacements per atom and is one of the most successful alloys developed in this field, both in terms of high temperature strength and excellent swelling resistance.
The details of the entire project were published in the “Journal of Nuclear Materials” together with the latest research. Since then, the team has conducted a number of studies, and has attracted the attention of the US Department of Energy and Nuclear Industry. The project produced a total of 18 journal papers and 2 doctoral theses.
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