Modeling and Simulation of Microstructure Evolution and Deformation in an Irradiated Environment
Pitts, Stephanie Anne
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The ability to predict the behavior of structural components in a nuclear power plant is critical to the nuclear industry. Structural metals in the primary loop of nuclear power plants must endure challenges such as irradiation and mechanical and thermal loading, and these structural metal components must continue to function in potential transient and accident conditions throughout the operational lifetime of the power plant. This extreme operational environment changes the metal microstructure by creating additional defects. The physical interactions of dislocations with these defects govern how the metal will respond to future conditions. Therefore predicting the mechanical response of these metals requires a set of physically based and reliable models of dislocation and defect interactions. These microstructure elements include glide mobile and immobile dislocations, geometrically necessary dislocations, twinning dislocations, irradiation defects, and thermal aging defects. We present here a continuum dislocation dynamics crystal plasticity framework to capture the interaction mechanisms of these dislocations and defects, verified with a combination of benchmark problems and comparisons with experimental data for two different types of structural metals: alpha iron and nickel-based alloys. In our simulations of alpha iron we highlight the advantages of applying a Monte Carlo stochastic model of cross slip dislocation motion and show the importance of capturing the 3D nature of glide dislocation and self-interstitial atom loop radiation defect interactions. We demonstrate coupling of glide dislocations with geometrically necessary dislocations to capture the influence of lattice bending, including the sensitivity of the geometrically necessary dislocations to changes in the grain boundary angle. We further examine the interaction of glide dislocations with the twin dislocations and thermally aged defects which have been observed in a nickel-based alloy with additional models. Finally we assess the reliability of this crystal plasticity framework by comparing two dislocation glide velocity models across the range of normal operation temperatures. In successfully applying our crystal plasticity framework to multiple metals, we provide further evidence of the reliability of our approach. The results of this mechanism-based continuum dislocation dynamics crystal plasticity framework can be used to inform engineering scale models throughout the nuclear industry.