Mechanical properties of UO2 thin films under heavy ion irradiation using nanoindentation and finite element modeling

Mohamed S. Elbakhshwan, Yinbin Miao, James F. Stubbins, Brent J. Heuser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mechanical response of UO2 to irradiation is becoming increasingly important due to the shift to higher burn-up rates in the next generation of nuclear reactors. In the current study, thin films of UO2 were deposited on YSZ substrates using reactive-gas magnetron sputtering. Nanoindentation was used to measure the mechanical properties of the as-grown and irradiated films. Finite element modeling was used to account for the substrate effect on the measurements. In order to study the effect of displacement cascades accompanying gas bubbles, 5000 Å UO2 films were irradiated with 600 keV Kr+ ions at 25 °C and 600 °C. These irradiation conditions were used to confine radiation damage effects and implanted gas within the film. Results showed an increase in the film hardness and yield strength with dose, while elastic modulus initially decreased with irradiation and then kept increasing with dose. The change in hardness and elastic modulus is attributed to the introduction of gas bubbles and displacement cascade damage. Irradiation at 600 °C resulted in a decrease in the hardness and elastic modulus after irradiation using 600 keV Kr+ at a dose of 1E14 ions/cm2. Both hardness and elastic modulus then increased with irradiation dose. This behavior is attributed to recrystallization during irradiation at 600 °C and the formation of nanocrystallite regions with diameter and density that increase with dose. The calculation of the critical resolved shear stress (CRSS) demonstrated that nanocrystals are the primary cause for film hardening based on the Orowan hardening mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)548-558
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Nuclear Materials
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Heavy ion irradiation
  • Mechanical properties
  • Nanoindentation
  • Thin films
  • UO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering


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