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Understanding the first formation stages of (Y,Ti) nano-oxides in Oxide Dispersion Strengthened (ODS) steels

Abstract : Oxide Dispersion Strengthened (ODS) steels, that is steels reinforced with a homogeneous distribution of (Y,Ti) oxide nano-particles, are advanced structural materials for nuclear applications. The oxide particles serve as point defect recombination centres and obstacles to dislocation motion thereby improving radiation resistance and high-temperature strength of these steels making them perfect candidate materials for future fusion and fission nuclear reactors. The conventional fabrication of ODS steels is achieved by mechanical alloying followed by thermomechanical heat treatments. This way of ODS steel production seems complicated to understand the physical mechanisms leading to the precipitation of nano-oxide particles. The kinetics of nanoparticle formation can be much better studied using an alternative technique of nanoparticle growth, namely Ion Beam Synthesis (IBS). This approach has many advantages including the precise control of experimental parameters and the ability to de-correlate various factors contributing to precipitation kinetics. A better knowledge gained in this way would be potentially helpful for optimization of ODS steel production routines. In the course of this PhD study, the IBS approach was applied to investigate the co-precipitation of metal (Y and/or Ti) and oxygen ions implanted into a model Fe-Cr alloy with the composition close to those typical for commercial ODS steels. Following the standard IBS schedule, consisting of ion implantation followed by high-temperature heat treatment, ions of Y, Ti and O at low energies were implanted into high-purity Fe10wt%Cr alloy samples at room temperature. The implanted samples were then annealed at various temperatures ranging from 600 to 1100°C to promote the precipitation of nano-oxide particles. A range of Transmission Electron Microscopy techniques were used to characterize the crystallographic structure and chemical composition of the nanoparticles. The study has been performed following three sets of experiments. First of all, the sequential implantation of Ti and O ions was implemented. Subsequent annealing at temperatures below 1000°C revealed that precipitation of titanium oxide was suppressed. Instead, chromium-rich nano-oxide particles with corundum hexagonal structure were found to precipitate. At sufficiently high temperatures these corundum particles were found to contain certain amount of Ti. Only after annealing at the highest temperature of 1100°C, particles of another type with Ti enriched core and Cr enriched shell were additionally fixed. Secondly, sequential Y and O ion implantation resulted in the formation of probable yttrium-rich oxides at 800°C. Annealing at 1100°C promoted their growth to larger sized yttria (Y₂O₃) particles with a Cr enriched shell. Finally, sequential ion implantation of both metal ions (Y and Ti) was performed, followed by O implantation. The order of metal ion implantation has been found to be crucial for subsequent oxide precipitation at the annealing stage. With the Ti implantation first in the sequence, the precipitation of corundum hexagonal chromium-rich oxide was observed, very similar to the case of Ti and O implantation. In contrast, implantation starting with Y produced yttrium-titanium oxide particles with unidentifiable structure. Summing up, the study has demonstrated the feasibility of the formation of Y, Ti and (Y,Ti) oxides by ion implantation. The thesis presents the detailed characterization of the nanoparticles, as well as the discovered specific features of precipitated particles, such as the presence of orientation relationships between the particles and the FeCr matrix, which was observed even for the case of Cr-rich corundum particles. Finally, the implications of the obtained results, in conjunction with the already known data from the existing literature, for the better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the formation of nano-oxide particles in ODS steels are discussed.
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Martin Owusu-Mensah. Understanding the first formation stages of (Y,Ti) nano-oxides in Oxide Dispersion Strengthened (ODS) steels. Nuclear Experiment [nucl-ex]. Université Paris Saclay (COmUE), 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019SACLS310⟩. ⟨tel-02724849⟩

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