New Tungsten-Based Alloy Could be Valuable for Magnetic Fusion Facilities

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory recently developed a new tungsten-based alloy that can resist exceptional amounts of radiation without any damage.

Osman El Atwani (left) and Enrique Martinez at the transmission electron microscope. (Image credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Important for harsh irradiation environments like the interiors of magnetic fusion reactors, earlier explored materials have till now been hobbled by vulnerability against fracture, but this newly developed alloy appears to overcome that problem.

This material showed outstanding radiation resistance when compared to pure nanocrystalline tungsten materials and other conventional alloys. Our investigations of the material mechanical properties under different stress states and response of the material under plasma exposure are ongoing.

Osman El Atwani, Study Lead Author, Los Alamos National Laboratory

El Atwani is also the principal investigator of the project titled “Radiation Effects and Plasma Material Interactions in Tungsten Based Materials.”

It seems that we have developed a material with unprecedented radiation resistance. We have never seen before a material that can withstand the level of radiation damage that we have observed for this high-entropy [four or more principal elements] alloy. It seems to retain outstanding mechanical properties after irradiation, as opposed to traditional counterparts, in which the mechanical properties degrade easily under irradiation.

Enrique Martinez Saez, Study Co-Author, Principal Investigator, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Atom probe tomography revealed an interesting atomic level layering of different elements in these alloys, which then changed to nanoclusters when subjected to radiation, helping us to better understand why this unique alloy is highly radiation tolerant.

Arun Devaraj, Project Collaborator, Materials Scientist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Produced as a thin film, this material is a quaternary nanocrystalline tungsten-tantalum-vanadium-chromium alloy that has been characterized under harsh thermal conditions and following irradiation.

We haven’t yet tested it in high-corrosion environments. But I anticipate it should perform well there also. And if it is ductile, as expected, it could also be used as turbine material since it is a refractory, high-melting-point material.

Enrique Martinez Saez, Study Co-Author, Principal Investigator, Los Alamos National Laboratory

The project, described this week in a paper in Science Advances, was a multi-institutional effort, involving facilities and researchers of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Warsaw University of Technology, Poland, and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.

The Los Alamos research was financially supported by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program of Los Alamos National Laboratory and the G. T. Seaborg Institute, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science.

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