Hydrogen pick-up in Zr alloys - Effect of pH

Zirconium alloys are used in nuclear reactors as cladding of the fuel rods as their properties are suitable for such hostile environment (e.g. low neutron absorption and high hardness). However, the water in the reactor will react with the Zirconium at a certain temperature, forming Zirconium Oxide and Zirconium Hydrides, which mechanically weakens the alloy, and can cause cracking decreasing the lifetime of the material.

My project will be using various techniques to study the characteristics of the Oxides and Hydrides. One will be TEM, which is a room sized piece of equipment that fires electrons through a sample, and allows us to see structures on a very small scale. Another is SEM, a slightly smaller piece of equipment that bounces electrons from the top of a sample to see the surface structure of materials.

In addition, I will be using TDS (Thermal Desorption Spectroscopy), which is a method for quantifying desorbed molecules from a surface when it’s heated to learn which gases were trapped in the material.