Characterization of microstructure and hardening of SLM nickel-based alloy irradiated by He ions

AUTHORS: Zhu, Zhenbo; Huang, Hefei; Min, Shiling; Hou, Juan; Ji, Weichi
For the application of additively manufactured nickel-based alloys in molten salt reactors (MSRs), it is crucial to evaluate their performance in nuclear environments, especially under He-induced damage. Therefore, in this study, the irradiation damage behaviour of selective laser melted (SLM) nickel-based GH3536 alloy was studied by irradiating it with He ions at various doses. Traditionally manufactured (TM) materials were used as reference materials to evaluate the resistance of SLM GH3536 to irradiation. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was performed to reveal the depth distribution of irradiation-induced He bubbles, as well as the characteristics of dislocation loops, using both on-zone scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) and rel-rod modes. Nanoindentation tests were performed on both alloys to investigate their irradiation hardening. The TEM graphs and quantitative analysis showed that, owing to the cellular sub-grain structures, the He bubbles in the SLM alloy exhibited a lower number density but larger size than those in the TM alloy. Additionally, the SLM alloy showed inferior He tolerance but better resistance to irradiation hardening, as revealed by the nanoindentation test results. Consistency between the experimental hardness increment and calculated yield stress increment showed that the irradiation hardening of the sample was mainly caused by the presence of irradiation-induced defects. A comparison between the on-zone STEM and rel-rod modes suggested that the rel-rod mode is more effective if only the effect of irradiation-induced defects on mechanical properties is studied. Furthermore, this study provides insight into the design of SLM nickel-based alloys for nuclear industry applications.(c) 2022 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.