Coating nuclear fuel cladding alloys with hard thin films has been considered as an innovative solution to increase the safety of nuclear reactors, in particular during a of loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA). In this context, and due to its suitable mechanical properties and high corrosion resistance, titanium nitride thin films have been proposed as candidate coatings for zirconium alloys in new accident tolerant fuels for light water reactors. Although the properties of TiN hard coatings are known to be adequate for such applications, the understanding of how the exposure to energetic particle irradiation changes the microstructure and properties of these thin films is still not fully understood. Herein, we report on heavy ion irradiation in situ within a Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) of magnetron-sputtered TiN thin films. The coatings were irradiated with 134 keV Xe + ions at 473 K to a fluence of 6.7 × 1015 ions⋅cm−2 corresponding to 6.2 displacements-per-atom where significative microstructural alterations have been observed. Post-irradiation analytic characterisation with Energy Filtered TEM and Energy-Dispersive X-ray spectroscopy carried out in a Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope indicates that TiN thin films are subjected to radiation-induced segregation. Additionally, the nucleation and growth of Xe bubbles appears to play a major role in the dissociation of the TiN thin film.
Tunes, M. A., Da Silva, F. C., Camara, O., Schön, C. G., Sagás, J. C., Fontana, L. C., Donnelly, S. E., Greaves, G., & Edmondson, P. D. (2018). Energetic particle irradiation study of TiN coatings: are these films appropriate for accident tolerant fuels? Journal of Nuclear Materials, 512, 239-245. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnucmat.2018.10.013