Primary radiation damage: A review of current understanding and models

Kai Nordlund, Steven J. Zinkle, Andrea E. Sand, Fredric Granberg, Robert S. Averback, Roger E. Stoller, Tomoaki Suzudo, Lorenzo Malerba, Florian Banhart, William J. Weber, Francois Willaime, Sergei L. Dudarev, David Simeone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Scientific understanding of any kind of radiation effects starts from the primary damage, i.e. the defects that are produced right after an initial atomic displacement event initiated by a high-energy particle. In this Review, we consider the extensive experimental and computer simulation studies that have been performed over the past several decades on what the nature of the primary damage is. We review both the production of crystallographic or topological defects in materials as well as radiation mixing, i.e. the process where atoms in perfect crystallographic positions exchange positions with other ones in non-defective positions. All classes of materials except biological materials are considered. We also consider the recent effort to provide alternatives to the current international standard for quantifying this energetic particle damage, the Norgett-Robinson-Torrens displacements per atom (NRT-dpa) model for metals. We present in detail new complementary displacement production estimators (“athermal recombination corrected dpa” arc-dpa) and atomic mixing (“replacements per atom” rpa) functions that extend the NRT-dpa, and discuss their advantages and limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-479
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Nuclear Materials
StatePublished - Dec 15 2018


  • Defect production
  • Displacement cascades
  • Thermal spike
  • dpa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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