Lithium Corrosion and Irradiation Influence on Fusion Relevant Coating Systems (materials strand project)

Supervisor/s – Anna Kareer, Chris Grovenor, David Armstrong (University of Oxford). Callum Gallagher (UKAEA).

The blanket module of the fusion devices of the future is likely to have a coolant, that not only cools the reactor, but breeds tritium, the fuel that is used within the plasma. PbLi eutectic has been extensively studied due to its ability to multiply neutrons (Pb) and breed tritium (Li). Due to the corrosive nature of PbLi, coatings (FeAl, Al2O3, Er2O3) are employed to protect the structural material as steel has a poor compatibility with PbLi.

To understand the tolerance of these coatings with the environment, tests in PbLi have been performed to understand the chemical compatibility. However, tests to understand the synergistic effects of PbLi and irradiation are difficulty and costly as there is a lack of testing equipment globally. So, tests in PbLi and irradiation environments are usually done subsequently, rather than concurrently.

This project will use a combination of proton irradiation and PbLi corrosion at the new established Oxford testing facility to understand synergistic effects that may occur under these conditions.

Characterisation of the degradation process will use analytical electron microscopy including STEM-EDX, SEM-TKD and FIB-SEM tomography. Adhesive properties of the coatings will be measured using scratch testing methods developed in Oxford to understand interfacial failure mechanisms. The results from the microstructural and mechanical characterisation will be used to either engineer the alloy chemistry or coating combinations to improve the resistance to degradation and decohesion. Further development of the corrosion facilities as part of the project will include integration of the stirring within the liquid lithium crucible and oxygen level sensors. The project will be in close collaboration with UKAEA.

This project is offered by The University of Oxford. For further information please contact: David.armstrong@materials.ox.ac.uk

This project is not compatible with part time study.