Radiation damage effects within materials

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Radiation damage effects within materials are a key area of research as we strive to build longer lasting, safer and more economical nuclear reactors. Proposed materials must be tested in an appropriate manor to determine their suitability for these applications. The use of neutrons as a means to simulate a reactor environment is extremely slow and costly. Charged particle implantation has been used as a rapid, cost effective method that can be tailored to meet specific experimental requirements. We must, however, understand the fundamental differences between neutron and charged particle radiation damage studies before we can draw conclusions from the results. Electron microscopy has long been a very important tool for the characterisation of radiation damage; used with complimentary techniques the electron microscope and its associated detectors can give insight into the mechanisms of damage like no other instrument. This research aims to gain an understanding of the radiation damage tolerance of structural reactor materials and ideally fill a gap in the knowledge base of using scanning electron microscopy based techniques to characterise this damage. A novel use of electron backscatter diffraction has been used to reveal trends in radiation damage studies of stainless steel reactor materials, this application of EBSD has not been seen before in the literature. Results from these studies show a clear difference in the tolerance to radiation damage of FCC and BCC crystal structures within the stainless steels. Significant advances have been made in the development of cross sectional sample preparation methods enabling the findings of these studies using EBSD to be validated by traditional transmission electron microscopy techniques.
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