Dislocation Loops in Proton Irradiated Uranium-Nitrogen-Oxygen System

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In this study, we investigated the type of dislocation loops formed in the proton-irradiated uranium-nitrogen-oxygen (U-N-O) system, which involves uranium mononitride (UN), uranium sesquinitride (α-U2N3), and uranium dioxide (UO2) phases. The dislocation loop formation is examined using specimens irradiated at 400°C and 710°C. Based on the detailed transmission-based electron microscopy characterization with i) the morphology-based on-zone and ii) the invisibility-criterion based two-beam condition imaging techniques, only a single type of dislocation loop in each phase is found: a/2⟨110⟩, a/2⟨111⟩, or a/3⟨111⟩ dislocation loops in UN, α-U2N3, and UO2 phases, respectively. Molecular statics calculations for the formation energy of perfect and faulted dislocation loops in the UN phase indicate a critical loop size of ∼ 6 nm, above which perfect loops are thermodynamically favorable. This could explain the absence of faulted loops in the experimental observation of the irradiated UN phase at two temperatures. This work will enhance the understanding of irradiation induced microstructural evolution for uranium mononitride as an advanced nuclear fuel for the next-generation nuclear reactors.


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