Evaluation of the Mechanical Performance of Silicon Carbide in TRISO Fuel at High Temperatures

Nadia Rohbeck, Ping Xiao

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The HTR design envisions fuel operating temperatures of up to 1000 °C and in case of an accident even 1600 °C are conceivable. To ensure safety in all conditions a thorough understanding of the impact of an extreme temperature environment is necessary. This work assesses the high temperature mechanical performance of the silicon carbide (SiC) layer within the tristructural-isotropic (TRISO) fuel particle as it poses the main barrier against fission product release into the primary circuit. Therefore, simulated fuel was fabricated by fluidized bed chemical vapour deposition; varying the deposition conditions resulted in strongly differing SiC microstructures for the various samples. Subsequently the TRISO particles were annealed in inert atmosphere at temperatures ranging from 1600 °C up to 2200 °C. Scanning electron microscopy and Raman spectroscopy showed that strong disintegration of the SiC layer occurred from 2100 °C onwards, but initial signs of porosity formation were visible already at 1800 °C. Still, the elastic modulus and hardness as measured by nanoindentation were hardly impaired. After annealing stoichiometric SiC coatings showed a reduction in fracture strength as determined by a modified crush test, however the actual annealing temperature from 1600 °C to 2000 °C had no measureable effect.

    Furthermore, a technique was developed to measure the elastic modulus and hardness in situ up to 500 °C using a high temperature nanoindentation facility. This approach allows conducting tests while the specimen and indenter tip are heated to a specific measurement temperature, thus obtaining reliable values for the temperature dependent mechanical properties of the material. For the SiC layer in TRISO particles it was found that the elastic modulus decreased slightly from room temperature up to 500 °C, whereas the hardness was reduced more severely to approximately half of its ambient temperature value.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)52-58
    JournalNuclear Engineering and Design
    Early online date22 Jun 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


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