Real-Time Atomistic Imaging of Reactor Material - Liquid Metal Coolant Chemistry

Grants and Contracts Details


Real-Time Atomistic Imaging of Reactor Material—Liquid Metal Coolant Chemistry at Fusion-Relevant Conditions Beth S. Guiton University of Kentucky, Department of Chemistry Fusion reactions are the principal source of energy in the universe, yet controlling fusion energy on Earth – a feat that would solve the world’s energy problem – remains a grand science and engineering challenge for which the development and understanding of potential reactor materials poses a major roadblock. Fusion reactions can produce energy with one millionth of the equivalent fuel when using conventional chemical sources, such as coal and oil. Moreover, the lithium and deuterium fuel for fusion power is readily available from water and rocks, making it a virtually unlimited energy source. With recent advances in plasma physics, the concept of a fusion energy power plant is now considered feasible; yet, to become economically competitive, materials are required which can withstand the extraordinarily harsh environments expected in a functioning fusion reactor. Such materials, for both the plasma facing component and the heat-extraction blanket regions, must be able to withstand high operating temperatures and high particle and heat flux -- making materials development a critical factor in determining the future success of fusion energy. In addition to having high thermal stress-resistance, materials for a fusion reactor must also demonstrate compatibility with the coolants (such as helium and PbLi eutectic alloy), resistance to radiation damage, and resistance to the incorporation of tritium, which would pose an environmental risk in the event of an accident. The current understanding of corrosion mechanisms in the presence of fusion-reactor coolants at elevated temperatures is, however, limited. Thus, there is a critical need for cross-cutting collaborations to determine the mechanistic and chemical response of key reactor materials to coolants under prototypical reactor environments. The objective in this application is to determine the key parameters and synergy of such parameters governing coolant compatibility with key prototypical blanket materials, for the promising dual coolant lead lithium (DCLL) blanket concept. The following specific aims have been devised to meet our objective: (1) Determine the corrosion mechanisms of aluminum-coated and –containing blanket structural materials due to reaction with PbLi coolant, using in situ heating in the transmission electron microscope (TEM) to image these reactions in real-time; (2) Identify the microstructural parameters governing thermal stability of oxide dispersion-strengthened ferritic alloys in contact with PbLi eutectic, as a function of helium ion pre- dose, temperature, and grain size, using in situ heating in the TEM; (3) Establish the mechanistic characteristics of structural transformations due to corrosion and/or dissimilar material reaction facilitated by PbLi coolant, for silicon carbide-based flow channel insert materials. The successful completion of these studies would be expected to have a significant positive impact on fusion energy sciences, since it would provide the essential basis for understanding the mutual compatibility of DCLL blanket materials.
Effective start/end date9/1/218/31/25


  • Department of Energy: $500,000.00


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