The Role of Cr, P, and N Solutes on the Irradiated Microstructure of BCC Fe

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The objective of this study is to understand irradiation-induced and assisted defect evolution in binary body center cubic (bcc) Fe-based alloys. The broader class of bcc ferritic alloys are leading candidates for advanced nuclear fission and fusion applications, in part due to their exceptional void swelling resistance. However, their irradiated microstructure evolution is sensitive to solute species present, since these solutes can act as traps for irradiation-induced defects due to the surrounding tensile or compressive stress fields. Here, three alloys (Fe-9.5%Cr, Fe-4.5%P, and Fe-2.3%N) are selected for study because they systematically exhibit varying solute sizes and solute positions (i.e., substitutional or interstitial). Ex situ and in situ ion irradiations reveal that Fe-P has a considerably finer and denser population of irradiation-induced defects than Fe-Cr and Fe-N at the same irradiation conditions, which is attributed to strong defect trapping at undersized substitutional P, consequently hindering the development of extended defects. Meanwhile, oversized substitutional solutes (e.g., Cr) and interstitial solutes (e.g., N) may also suppress dislocation loop development due to weak solute-defect trapping.