Prediction of irradiation hardening in metals
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The purpose of this thesis is to improve predictions of irradiation hardening in metals with a focus on coarse-graining via meso-scale simulations. Increasing hardness and decreasing in ductility in nuclear reactor pressure vessel steel is the limiting factor of nuclear reactor life, and accurately predicting reactor life is of the utmost importance for the safe operation of nuclear facilities. This is an inherently multi-scale problem with primary damage occurring at the atomic scale and its effects propagating across ten orders of magnitude in length and time scale to changes in macroscopic material properties, which must be reflected in its methods of prediction. To achieve this goal, this thesis develops two novel approaches to simulate the motion of dislocations in irradiated alpha-iron. First, a dislocation dynamics simulation coarse-graining insight from atomistic dislocation-defect simulations is used to guide the selection of proposed constitutive models. Several studies investigating the effect of size distribution show that the mean defect size can be used with the selected models to predict material hardening without a complex treatment for the defect size distribution. The hardening effect of the commonly observed defect types are found independently and a superposition principle is proposed for materials with both defect types. Second, a link to transition state theory and thermally activated reactions is established using a new method augmenting a discrete dislocation dynamics simulations with the nudged elastic band method to characterise the minimum energy pathways of dislocation reactions. This development enables calculations of activation energy for dislocation events using a continuum method as well as the numerical calculations of dislocation attempt frequency. The thesis concludes with an extension to the analysis of coarse-graining unit events to large scale dislocation-obstacle bypass phenomena.