Volume 4, Issue 6 (June 2007)
Modelling of Radiation Damage in Fe-Cr Alloys
High-Cr ferritic/martensitic steels are being considered as structural materials for a large number of future nuclear applications, from fusion to accelerator-driven systems and GenIV reactors. Fe-Cr alloys can be used as model materials to investigate some of the mechanisms governing their microstructure evolution under irradiation and its correlation to changes in their macroscopic properties. Focusing on these alloys, we show an example of how the integration of computer simulation and theoretical models can provide keys for the interpretation of a host of relevant experimental observations. In particular we show that proper accounting for two basic features of these alloys, namely, the existence of a fairly strong attractive interaction between self-interstitials and Cr atoms and of a mixing enthalpy that changes sign from negative to positive around 8 to 10 % Cr, is a necessary and, to a certain extent, sufficient condition to rationalize and understand their behavior under irradiation. These features have been revealed by ab initio calculations, are supported by experimental evidence, and have been adequately transferred into advanced empirical interatomic potentials, which have been and are being used for the simulation of damage production, defect behavior, and phase transformation in these alloys. The results of the simulations have been and are being used to parameterize models capable of extending the description of radiation effects to scales beyond the reach of molecular dynamics. The present paper intends to highlight the most important achievements and results of this research activity.