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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P034446/1
Title: Structural integrity characterisation of nuclear materials via nano additive manufacturing
Principal Investigator: SHTERENLIKHT, Dr A
Other Investigators:
HO, Dr YD Armstrong, Dr D Mostafavi, Dr M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: University of Bristol
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 20 March 2017 Ends: 19 September 2018 Value (£): 201,747
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Nuclear
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
16 Feb 2017 Energy Feasibility 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
We need to know the behaviour of novel materials in the presence of high irradiation and high temperature before we could embark on building advanced Generation IV and fusion nuclear systems. However, health and safety issues prevent us from testing macromechanical irradiated coupons in the laboratory. The solution is to test very small volumes of irradiated material, i.e. micromechanical coupons, and use multi-scale modelling to extrapolate the measured behaviour to macromechanical components. Because of their very low volume such specimens can be lab tested, even when irradiated to low or medium level of activity. This offers a possibility of testing multiple specimens to investigate stochastic effects, e.g. effects of irradiation on the shift of the ductile to brittle transition. The manufacturing technology is fast moving from subtractive methods to additive methods. Additive manufacturing can produce geometries which so far have not been possible using the traditional subtraction (e.g. milling) methods. The advances of additive manufacturing, so far, have not been replicated in micromechanical testing. Currently the common method for fabricating micromechanical coupons is to use Gallium or Helium Focused Ion Beam (FIB) micro-milling. In FIB milling, charged ions of helium or gallium are focused on the sample, sputtering the parent material in a pre-defined geometry until the desired shape is milled. The subtractive FIB milling method not only is not representative of additive manufacturing foreseen to be used in future nuclear complete fabrication, it leaves damages such as helium bubbles or gallium implantation in the milled micromechanical samples. It is therefore highly desirable to develop a new method to fabricate micro-scale micromechanical testing coupons that do not suffer from FIB damage (i.e. helium or gallium implantation or in severe cases, parent material amorphisation).

In this feasibility study, we will investigate the applicability of a novel nano-additive manufacturing methodology, originally developed for tuneable optical systems, to fabricate micromechanical specimens. We will be using three-dimensional direct laser method to produce a 3D polymer scaffolding of the negative desired structure, we will then deposit the parent material (tungsten, iron or carbon) on the polymer scaffolding using electron beam induced deposition. We then remove the polymer by inductively coupled oxygen plasma, and finally fill out the scaffolding with parent material using thermal evaporation, electron beam induced deposition or chemical vapour deposition depending on the material. This method allows us to produce a micromechanical test coupon with desired geometry with an accuracy of at least one order of magnitude better than FIB milling. This is especially important for fabricating specimens that contain cracks as the natural cracks occurring in service components, for example due to corrosion, are very sharp which are hard to replicate using FIB milling. We will investigate the fracture behaviour of nanometre cracks in our micro-scale specimens by X-ray nano-tomography. Using X-ray nano-tomography will allow us to observe, in real time, the interaction of the crack with the surrounding microstructure. The information obtained from micro-fracture tests will validate our cellular automata finite element model which we then use to extrapolate the results to a macro-scale component.

If successful, in future we will neutron irradiate the nano-additively manufactured specimens to investigate the effects of irradiation damage on the structural integrity of components with complex geometries. Complex geometry specimens irradiated with a high dose are important for fusion plants as the geometry of many structural components is complex and dictated by physics. Thus in the follow-on research we will be working with Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, National Nuclear Laboratory and Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.bris.ac.uk