Conference paper

Synchrotron Light Techniques for the Investigation of Advanced Nuclear Reactor Structural Materials

In the frame of the Generation IV initiative, different structural material candidates are investigated at the Paul Scherrer Institute. These are oxide dispersion strengthened (ODS) steels, intermetallic materials and ceramic composite materials. The response of the material to different potential loads (irradiation, temperature …) is addressed in a multi-scale approach, both, modelling wise and also experimentally. The investigation of each scale delivers at least a qualitative understanding of possibly evolving damage in the material and also delivers a validation of the corresponding scale on the modelling side. From the experimental side, the lower end of the scale, the atomistic and structural level, can be investigated by conventional techniques, as for example transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). However, the use of synchrotron radiation techniques offers an ideal, complementary way to investigate the material structure and other properties. This paper presents applications in the field of the ODS research, where the structural behaviour of the nanoscopic dispersoids can selectively be investigated, although only being present with roughly 5 wt % in the matrix. A study showing the structural behaviour of these oxide particles as a function of irradiation illustrates the potential of the extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) technique. Using X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD), which is a difference-signal of two X-ray absorption spectra recorded for positive and negative helicities of the beam, the magnetic structure and some magnetic parameters, can be resolved. An example shows, how this can be applied to understand (Fe,Cr) systems, which is the base alloy of the investigated ODS steel. The results deliver an important crosscheck for modelling. Beside the presentation of these techniques, this paper shows how beamline techniques can serve nuclear research, with possibly activated materials. At the Paul Scherrer Institute, a sample holder for highly active materials has been developed, and has already served for EXAFS measurements at the Swiss Light Source (SLS). The set-up of this sample holder is briefly presented here.


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