Studies of transport in oxides on Zr-based materials

Abstract: Zr-based materials have found their main application in the nuclear field having high corrosion resistance and low neutron absorption cross-section. The oxide layer that is formed on the surface of these alloys is meant to be the barrier between the metal and the corrosive environment. The deterioration of this protective layer limits the lifetime of these alloys. A better understanding of the transport phenomena, which take place in the oxide layer during oxidation, could be beneficial for the development of more resistant alloys.In the present study, oxygen and hydrogen transport through the zirconia layer during oxidation of Zr-based materials at temperatures around 400C have been investigated using the isotope-monitoring techniques Gas Phase Analysis and Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry. The processes, which take place at oxide/gas and oxide/metal interface, in the bulk oxide and metal, have to be considered in the investigation of the mechanism of hydration and oxidation. Inward transport of oxygen and hydrogen species can be influenced by modification of the surface properties. We found that CO molecules adsorbed on Zr surface can block the surface reaction centers for H2 dissociation, and as a result, hydrogen uptake in Zr is reduced. On the other hand, coating the Zr surface with Pt, resulted in increased oxygen dissociation rate at the oxide/gas interface. This generated enhanced oxygen transport towards the oxide/metal interface and formation of thicker oxides. Our results show that at temperatures relevant for the nuclear industry, oxygen dissociation efficiency decreases in the order: Pt > Zr2Fe > Zr2Ni > ZrCr2 ≥ Zircaloy-2.Porosity development in the oxide scales generates easy diffusion pathways for molecules across the oxide layer during oxidation. A novel method for evaluation of the gas diffusion, gas concentration and effective pore size of oxide scales is presented in this study. Effective pore sizes in the nanometer range were found for pretransition oxides on Zircaloy-2.A mechanism for densification of oxide scales by obtaining a better balance between inward oxygen and outward metal transport is suggested. Outward Zr transport can be influenced by the presence of hydrogen in the oxide/metal substrate. Inward oxygen transport can be promoted by oxygen dissociating elements such as Fe-containing second phase particles. The results suggest furthermore that a proper choice of the second-phase particle composition and size distribution can lead to the formation of dense oxides, which are characterized by low oxygen and hydrogen uptake rates during oxidation.

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