In Situ Time-Resolved Phase Evolution and Phase Transformations in U-6 Wt Pct Nb
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In situ time-resolved synchrotron X-ray diffraction experiments were conducted to study the fine-scale phase evolution of U-6Nb. Upon rapid heating from 125 °C to 400 °C, a reverse martensitic transformation sequence, α″ → γo → γs, was observed in less than 4 seconds, which represents the first direct observation of the γo → γs transformation in diffraction-based measurements. Consistent with previous ex situ metallography experiments, our isothermal hold experiments at 526 °C, 530 °C and 565 °C reveal two distinct reactions for the phase separation, γs → α-U + γ1 (general precipitation) followed by (α-U + γ1) → α-U + γ1-2 (discontinuous precipitation). For the first-stage precipitation, the incubation time is determined to be ~ 50 and 100 seconds, respectively, for the isothermal aging at 526-530 °C and 565 °C. At this stage, the phase transformation is characterized by the simultaneous growth of α-U and γ1 at the expense of γs. As expected from the Arrhenius equation for the reaction rate, the determined times (~ 23 minutes) for the completion of the first-stage reaction at 526 ± 3 °C and 530 ± 3 °C are nearly twice longer than that at 565 ± 4 °C (~ 13 minutes). Over these periods of time, the Nb contents derived from a Vegard’s-type relationship for γ1 are in the 30.2 to 32.1 and 29.2 to 30.6 at. pct ranges, and the kinetics of the precipitation at 565 ± 4 °C can be described by the classic Avrami rate equation and one-dimensional growth of a surface or grain-boundary nucleation. During the second-stage precipitation, the γ1 phase continues to enrich in Nb as it gradually evolves toward the α + γ1-2 metastable state (up to 47 at. pct over a period of 172 minutes at 530 °C). These new and time-resolved measurements can be used to better constrain the time–temperature–transformation diagram, solute (Nb) redistribution, and transformation kinetics during the early stages of the diffusional phase transformation.
This work was supported by the US Department of Energy through the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by Triad National Security, LLC, for the National Nuclear Security Administration of U.S. Department of Energy (Contract No. 89233218CNA000001). The research presented in this article was supported by the Science Campaign 4 Program. The synchrotron X-ray diffraction experiments were performed at beamline 1-ID of Advanced Photon Source (APS), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.
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