Competing effects of electronic and nuclear energy loss on microstructural evolution in ionic-covalent materials

Y. Zhang, T. Varga, M. Ishimaru, P. D. Edmondson, H. Xue, P. Liu, S. Moll, F. Namavar, C. Hardiman, S. Shannon, W. J. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Ever increasing energy needs have raised the demands for advanced fuels and cladding materials that withstand the extreme radiation environments with improved accident tolerance over a long period of time. Ceria (CeO2) is a well known ionic conductor that is isostructural with urania and plutonia-based nuclear fuels. In the context of nuclear fuels, immobilization and transmutation of actinides, CeO2 is a model system for radiation effect studies. Covalent silicon carbide (SiC) is a candidate for use as structural material in fusion, cladding material for fission reactors, and an inert matrix for the transmutation of plutonium and other radioactive actinides. Understanding microstructural change of these ionic-covalent materials to irradiation is important for advanced nuclear energy systems. While displacements from nuclear energy loss may be the primary contribution to damage accumulation in a crystalline matrix and a driving force for the grain boundary evolution in nanostructured materials, local non-equilibrium disorder and excitation through electronic energy loss may, however, produce additional damage or anneal pre-existing defects. At intermediate transit energies where electronic and nuclear energy losses are both significant, synergistic, additive or competitive processes may evolve that affect the dynamic response of materials to irradiation. The response of crystalline and nanostructured CeO2 and SiC to ion irradiation are studied under different nuclear and electronic stopping powers to describe some general material response in this transit energy regime. Although fast radiation-induced grain growth in CeO2 is evident with no phase transformation, different fluence and dose dependence on the growth rate is observed under Si and Au irradiations. While grain shrinkage and amorphization are observed in the nano-engineered 3C SiC with a high-density of stacking faults embedded in nanosize columnar grains, significantly enhanced radiation resistance is attributed to stacking faults that promote efficient point defect annihilation. Moreover, competing effects of electronic and nuclear energy loss on the damage accumulation and annihilation are observed in crystalline 4H-SiC. Systematic experiments and simulation effort are needed to understand the competitive or synergistic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-43
Number of pages11
JournalNuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 15 2014


  • Ceria
  • Ion irradiation
  • Silicon carbide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Instrumentation


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