Fullerene-Like Defects in High-Temperature Neutron-Irradiated Nuclear Graphite

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Irradiation-induced defect evolution in graphite is particularly important for its application in graphite-moderated nuclear reactors. The evolution of defects directly influences macroscopically observed property changes in irradiated nuclear graphite which, in turn, can govern the lifetime of graphite components. This article reports novel defect structures and the irradiation response of microstructural features occurring in high-temperature irradiated nuclear graphite IG-110. High resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) was used to characterize specimens neutron-irradiated at a high temperature (≥800 °C) at doses of 1.73 and 3.56 atomic displacements per atom (dpa). Concentric shelled and fullerene-like defects were found to result in swelling along the c-axis and contraction along the a/b-axis of crystallites. Furthermore, such defects are shown to occur within, and partially fill, Mrozowski cracks prior to turnaround dose. In addition, in situ TEM under similar irradiation conditions was used to capture the real-time dynamic evolution of defects, providing unambiguous analysis of the evolution of the graphite structures during irradiation. Results suggest the mainstream theory for radiation damage in nuclear graphite (which assumes additional basal plane formation as the sole reason) to be an incorrect interpretation of defect evolution contributing to irradiation-induced property changes at higher temperatures.