Research > Program No. 2: Structural and System Diagnostics > RA1: Degradation and life-time of materials for nuclear reactors

RA1: Degradation and life-time of materials for nuclear reactors

Centre of highly sensitive analytical devices

The main aim of the centre is to research and describe degradation mechanisms of microstructural and chemical changes in materials exposed to neutron irradiation, high temperatures, mechanical load and corrosion environment. The centre includes a wide range of equipments for sample preparation from conventional metallographic laboratories to the advanced sample preparation methods for electron and ion microscopy. Specially built laboratories with analytical devices are the core of the centre, it includes a scanning electron microscope with focused ion beam (FIB-SEM), analytical transmission electron microscopy (HR-STEM), secondary ion mass spectrometer (SIMS) and light optical microscope with microhardess tester. Analytical devices enable a complex qualitative and quantitative microstructural analysis of metallic materials, ceramics, materials produced by powder metallurgy, thin layers, polymeric materials, etc. Thanks to the high resolution microscopes provide research of nanomaterials. Sample preparation laboratories for transmission electron microscope and analytical TEM laboratory are adapted for research of radioactive samples.

Laboratory of sample preparation for advanced methods of electron and ion microscopy

The sample preparation laboratories for scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM), analytical transmission electron microscopy (HR-STEM) and secondary ion mass spectrometer (SIMS). The laboratory is adapted for sample preparation of radioactive samples for TEM analysis.
Equipment for sample preparation:

  • Ion polishing system for SEM and SIMS,
  • Ion polishing system for TEM,
  • Electrolytic polishing system for TEM (radioactive and inactive samples),
  • Plasma cleaner for TEM, SEM and SIMS,
  • Vacuum sputtering machine for SEM, TEM, SIMS.

Laboratory of scanning electron microscopy with focused ion beam SEM – FIB

Analytical scanning electron microscope with field emission gun FEG and focused gallium ion source is equipped with detectors EDS, WDS and EBSD for chemical and crystallographic analysis. FEG source is optimized for high-resolution, high-brightness and electron current in a stable and very narrow beam spot. SEM imaging system includes detectors SE and BSE with in-lens configuration allowing analysis of nanolayers at low accelerating voltage, plasma-cleaner is integrated in microscope chamber.
Gallium ion source together with micromanipulator and gas injection system (GIS) allows precise sample preparation at nanometer level for example for TEM or APT and 3D tomography images, EDS, WDS or EBSD signal.

Laboratory of transmission electron microscopy (HR-STEM)

HR-STEM with a field emission gun FEG and accelerating voltage 200 kV allows microstructural analysis in detail, with atomic resolution and highly sensitive analysis of chemical composition. The laboratory is adapted for TEM analysis of radioactive samples for research of microstructural changes due to radiation damage, exposure to high temperatures and corrosion environment. Material volumes in units of nanometers can be researched using HR-STEM, it allows microanalysis as segregation along grain boundaries, dispersion precipitation of new phases or corrosion studies of diffusion layers formed by light elements.
TEM microscope is equipped with:

  • EDS and EELS detectors for chemical analysis including the elements with low atomic number and isotopes,
  • HAADF STEM detector for imaging using Z-contrast,
  • EFTEM energy filter for imaging with high contrast and high resolution and for mapping of chemical elements with low atomic number.

Laboratory of light optical microscopy with microhardness tester

Light optical microscope for metallographic analysis of metals and related materials in reflected light and also tranparent materials in transmitted light, optical microscope allows imaging in bright and dark field, polarized light and also Nomarski Differential Interference Contrast (DIC). Optical microscope analysis is completed by Vickers microhardness tester (MHV).

Laboratory of influence of energy complex on environment

Laboratory belongs to the research program Nuclear fuel cycle, which is part of the SUSEN project. Laboratory activities will be focused on trace analysis of radionuclides and toxic elements in natural samples and in experimental samples under project SUSEN and partial objective of the laboratory is to be involved to laboratory network IAEA. The “highly clean” laboratory with a declared purity of air ISO Class 3 according to EN ISO 14644-1:1999 will be built for these objectives

Laboratories will be divided into two parts:

Laboratories with highly sensitive systems for measurement of nuclear radiation (alpha and gamma spectroscopy) and mass spectrometry with inductively coupled plasma (ICP-MS). These laboratories will include additional systems for sampling, microwave decomposition systems and systems for chemical sample preparation. Laboratories include radiochemical laboratories, chemical sample preparation laboratory, “clean laboratories” and laboratories for measuring of nuclear radiation and ICP-MS.
Laboratories of Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS) which will include sample preparation room and SIMS analytical laboratory under the JPC program.