Zirconium alloys are widely used by the nuclear industry as fuel cladding and structural materials. Many physical and metallurgical properties of zirconium alloys, that are important for their performance in nuclear reactors, are affected by crystallographic texture due to the strong anisotropy of individual crystals. Irradiation assisted growth is one example. Zirconium crystals deform anisotropically under irradiation, which in the presence of strong textures (like the ones observed in cold-rolled sheet) causes undesirable deformation of components during service. For this reason, the nuclear industry is interested in developing thermomechanical processes that produce random textures, taking advantage of the allotropic phase transformation undergone by zirconium, from the low temperature hcp alpha-phase to the high temperature bcc beta-phase. One of these processes is beta-quenching, which has showed certain success in weakening strong rolling textures. However, there is no consensus about the fundamental mechanisms involved.The aim of this work is to study the evolution of the texture of the zirconium alloy Zircaloy-2 during beta-quenching, in order to gain understanding on the mechanisms involved on texture development and evolution during the alpha-to-beta and beta-to-alpha phase transformations. Firstly industrially beta-quenched samples were characterised using well known techniques such as laboratory X-ray diffraction (LXRD) and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD), which revealed a relationship between peak temperature and the inherited alpha texture. An in situ synchrotron X-ray diffraction (SXRD) experiment provided, for the first time, information of texture evolution of zirconium during rapid changes and at non-ambient conditions. Different peak temperatures and stress/strain conditions were tested. Detailed post mortem EBSD characterisation of samples studied in situ provided insight on the relationship between the microstructure and the texture. Finally, laboratory furnaces were used to beta-quench samples at very high temperature. It was found that there is selection of orientation variants during beta-quenching of zirconium, but while the selection during the alpha-to-beta transformation is almost negligible, depending on the texture evolution of the beta-phase (affected by grain growth and/or plastic deformation), diverse mechanisms of variant selection act during the beta-to-alpha phase transformation. The inherited textures observed result from the combination of these mechanisms. Some of the results of this work can be transferred to other systems such as titanium and the alpha-gamma-alpha phase transformation in steel.
- phase transformation
- variant selection