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  1. Graphite is a key component in designs of current and future nuclear reactors whose in-service lifetimes are dependent upon the mechanical performance of the graphite. Irradiation damage from fast neutrons creates lattice defects which have a dynamic effect on the microstructure and mechanical properties of graphite. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) can offer real-time monitoring of the dynamic atomic-level response of graphite subjected to irradiation; however, conventional TEM specimen-preparation techniques, such as argon ion milling itself, damage the graphite specimen and introduce lattice defects. It is impossible to distinguish these defects from the ones created by electron or neutron irradiation. Thus,tomore » ensure that TEM specimens are artifact-free, a new oxidation-based technique has been developed. Bulk nuclear grades of graphite (IG-110 and NBG-18) and highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG) were initially mechanically thinned to ~60μm. Discs 3mm in diameter were then oxidized at temperatures between 575°C and 625°C in oxidizing gasses using a new jet-polisher-like set-up in order to achieve optimal oxidation conditions to create self-supporting electron-transparent TEM specimens. The quality of these oxidized specimens were established using optical and electron microscopy. Samples oxidized at 575°C exhibited large areas of electron transparency and the corresponding lattice imaging showed no apparent damage to the graphite lattice.« less
  2. Four grades of nuclear graphite with various microstructures were subjected to accelerated oxidation tests in helium with traces of moisture and hydrogen in order to evaluate the effects of chronic oxidation on graphite components in high temperature gas cooled reactors. Kinetic analysis showed that the Langmuir-Hinshelwood (LH) model cannot consistently reproduce all results. In particular, at high temperatures and water partial pressures oxidation was always faster than the LH model predicts, with stronger deviations for superfine grain graphite than for medium grain grades. It was also found empirically that the apparent reaction order for water has a sigmoid-type variation withmore » temperature which follows the integral Boltzmann distribution function. This suggests that the apparent activation with temperature of graphite reactive sites that causes deviations from the LH model is rooted in specific structural and electronic properties of surface sites on graphite. A semi-global kinetic model was proposed, whereby the classical LH model was modified with a temperature-dependent reaction order for water. The new Boltzmann-enhanced model (BLH) was shown to consistently predict experimental oxidation rates over large ranges of temperature (800-1100 oC) and partial pressures of water (3-1200 Pa) and hydrogen (0-300 Pa), not only for the four grades of graphite but also for the historic grade H-451. The BLH model offers as more reliable input for modeling the chemical environment effects during the life-time operation of new grades of graphite in advanced nuclear reactors operating at high and very high temperatures.« less
  3. A thorough understanding of oxidation is important when considering the health and integrity of graphite components in graphite reactors. For the next generation of graphite reactors, HTGRs specifically, an unlikely air ingress has been deemed significant enough to have made its way into the licensing applications of many international licensing bodies. While a substantial body of literature exists on nuclear graphite oxidation in the presence of molecular oxygen and significant efforts have been made to characterize oxidation kinetics of various grades, the value of existing information is somewhat limited. Often, multiple competing processes, including reaction kinetics, mass transfer, and microstructuralmore » evolution, are lumped together into a single rate expression that limits the ability to translate this information to different conditions. This article reviews the reaction of graphite with molecular oxygen in terms of the reaction kinetics, gas transport, and microstructural evolution of graphite. It also presents the foundations of a model for the graphite-molecular oxygen reaction system that is kinetically independent of graphite grade, and is capable of describing both the bulk and local oxidation rates under a wide range of conditions applicable to air-ingress.« less

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