Microstructural characterization of a thin film ZrN diffusion barrier in an as-fabricated U7Mo-Al matrix dispersion fuel plate

Dennis D. Keiser, Emmanuel Perez, Tom Wiencek, Ann Leenaers, Sven Van den Berghe

    Research outputpeer-review


    The United States High Performance Research Reactor Fuel Development program is developing low enriched uranium fuels for application in research and test reactors. One concept utilizes U-7wt% Mo (U-7Mo) fuel particles dispersed in Al matrix, where the fuel particles are coated with a 1µm-thick ZrN coating. The ZrN serves as a diffusion barrier to eliminate a deleterious reaction that can occur between U-7Mo and Al when a dispersion fuel is irradiated under aggressive reactor conditions. To investigate the final microstructure of a physically-vapor-deposited ZrN coating in a dispersion fuel plate after it was fabricated using a rolling process, characterization samples were taken from a fuel plate that was fabricated at 500°C using ZrN-coated U-7Mo particles, Al matrix and AA6061 cladding. Scanning electron and transmission electron microscopy analysis were performed. The as-fabricated coating was determined to be cubic-ZrN (cF8) phase. It exhibited a columnar microstructure comprised of nanometer-sized grains and a region of relatively high porosity, mainly near the Al matrix. The bonding between the U-7Mo and ZrN appeared to be mechanical in nature. A relatively high level of oxygen was observed in the ZrN coating, extending from the Al matrix in the ZrN coating in decreasing concentration.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)406-418
    JournalJournal of Nuclear Materials
    Issue number03
    StatePublished - Jan 2015

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