Zirconium alloys are used in most of the world’s nuclear reactors as fuel cladding and structural components because of their low neutron capture cross sections and good corrosion resistance. The Materials Department is a partner in a major international consortium (https://www.zr-midas.org) developing a better mechanistic understanding of the way that these alloys degrade under intense neutron irradiation and corrosive environments so that we can design improved alloys that will increase the burnup of the uranium fuel and reduce the waste legacy produced by the nuclear electricity industry.
Atom Probe Tomography (APT) can be used for unique nanoscale characterisation of zirconium alloys and the oxides that form on them in service; data that is important in understanding how the material changes in the reactor environment. In this project we have a unique set of Zr alloy samples that have been subjected to intense neutron irradiation, and this project will focus on APT analysis of these materials. Since they are radioactive, the student will be trained to use the state-of-the art facilities for handling and preparing samples from active materials at the nearby Materials Research Facility at Culham (https://mrf.ukaea.uk/), and to be an expert user of APT instruments. Working closely with researchers using other analytical techniques in the MIDAS programme and with modellers, this project will give a student interested in the field of nuclear materials the opportunity to become expert in an important technique and to apply the understanding developed on how different zirconium alloys behave in service to design improved materials for future reactors.