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A thermal neutron absorber material composed of Al3Hf particles in an aluminum matrix is under development for the Advanced Test Reactor. This metal matrix composite was fabricated via hot pressing of high-purity aluminum and micrometer-size Al3Hf powders at volume fractions of 20.0, 28.4, and 36.5%. Room temperature tensile and hardness testing of unirradiated specimens revealed a linear relationship between volume fraction and strength, while the tensile data showed a strong decrease in elongation between the 20 and 36.5% volume fraction materials. Tensile tests conducted at 200 °C on unirradiated material revealed similar trends. Evaluations were then conducted on specimens irradiated at 66 to 75 °C to four dose levels ranging from approximately 1 to 4 dpa. Tensile properties exhibited the typical increase in strength and decrease in ductility with dose that are common for metallic materials irradiated at ≤0.4Tm. Hardness also increased with neutron dose. The difference in strength between the three different volume fraction materials was roughly constant as the dose increased. Nanoindentation measurements of Al3Hf particles in the 28.4 vol% material showed the expected trend of increased hardness with irradiation dose. Transmission electron microscopy revealed oxygen at the interface between the Al3Hf particles and aluminum matrix in the irradiated material. Scanning electron microscopy of the exterior surface of tensile tested specimens revealed that deformation of the material occurs via plastic deformation of the Al matrix, cracking of the Al3Hf particles, and to a lesser extent, tearing of the matrix away from the particles. The fracture surface of an irradiated 28.4 vol% specimen showed failure by brittle fracture in the particles and ductile tearing of the aluminum matrix with no loss of cohesion between the particles and matrix. The coefficient of thermal expansion decreased upon irradiation, with a maximum change of −6.3% for the annealed irradiated 36.5 vol% specimen.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.