The microstructural changes and associated effects on thermal conductivity were examined in UO2 after irradiation using 3.9 MeV He2+ ions. Lattice expansion of UO2 was observed in X-ray diffraction after ion irradiation up to 5 × 1016 He2+/cm2 at low-temperature (<200 °C). Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) showed homogenous irradiation damage across an 8 μm thick plateau region, which consisted of small dislocation loops accompanied by dislocation segments. Dome-shaped blisters were observed at the peak damage region (depth around 8.5 μm) in the sample subjected to 5 × 1016 He2+/cm2, the highest fluence reached, while similar features were not detected at 9 × 1015 He2+/cm2. Laser-based thermo-reflectance measurements showed that the thermal conductivity for the irradiated layer decreased about 55% for the high fluence sample and 35% for the low fluence sample as compared to an un-irradiated reference sample. Detailed analysis for the thermal conductivity indicated that the conductivity reduction was caused by the irradiation induced point defects.
We report on imaging subsurface grain microstructure using picosecond ultrasonics. This approach relies on elastic anisotropy of crystalline materials where ultrasonic velocity depends on propagation direction relative to the crystal axes. Picosecond duration ultrasonic pulses are generated and detected using ultrashort light pulses. In materials that are transparent or semitransparent to the probe wavelength, the probe monitors gigahertz frequency Brillouin oscillations. The frequency of these oscillations is related to the ultrasonic velocity and the optical index of refraction. Ultrasonic waves propagating across a grain boundary experience a change in velocity due to a change in crystallographic orientation relative to the ultrasonic propagation direction. This change in velocity is manifested as a change in the Brillouin oscillation frequency. Using the ultrasonic propagation velocity, the depth of the interface can be determined from the location in time of the transition in oscillation frequency. A subsurface image of the grain boundary is obtained by scanning the beam along the surface. We demonstrate this subsurface imaging capability using a polycrystalline UO2 sample. Cross section liftout analysis of the grain boundary using electron microscopy was used to verify our imaging results.
The Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF) is the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy's only designated nuclear energy user facility. Through peer-reviewed proposal processes, the NSUF provides researchers access to neutron, ion, and gamma irradiations, post-irradiation examination and beamline capabilities at Idaho National Laboratory and a diverse mix of university, national laboratory and industry partner institutions.