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A stochastic differential equations approach for the description of helium bubble size distributions in irradiated metals

: Seif, D.; Ghoniem, N.M.


Journal of nuclear materials 455 (2014), Nr.1-3, S.516-521
ISSN: 0022-3115
Fraunhofer IWM ()
rate theory; helium-vacancy clustering; helium bubbles; size distribution; stochastic differential equations

A rate theory model based on the theory of nonlinear stochastic differential equations (SDEs) is developed to estimate the time-dependent size distribution of helium bubbles in metals under irradiation. Using approaches derived from Ito's calculus, rate equations for the first five moments of the size distribution in helium-vacancy space are derived, accounting for the stochastic nature of the atomic processes involved. In the first iteration of the model, the distribution is represented as a bivariate Gaussian distribution. The spread of the distribution about the mean is obtained by white-noise terms in the second-order moments, driven by fluctuations in the general absorption and emission of point defects by bubbles, and fluctuations stemming from collision cascades. This statistical model for the reconstruction of the distribution by its moments is coupled to a previously developed reduced-set, mean-field, rate theory model. As an illustrative case study, the model is applied to a tungsten plasma facing component under irradiation. Our findings highlight the important role of stochastic atomic fluctuations on the evolution of helium-vacancy cluster size distributions. It is found that when the average bubble size is small (at low dpa levels), the relative spread of the distribution is large and average bubble pressures may be very large. As bubbles begin to grow in size, average bubble pressures decrease, and stochastic fluctuations have a lessened effect. The distribution becomes tighter as it evolves in time, corresponding to a more uniform bubble population. The model is formulated in a general way, capable of including point defect drift due to internal temperature and/or stress gradients. These arise during pulsed irradiation, and also during steady irradiation as a result of externally applied or internally generated non-homogeneous stress fields. Discussion is given into how the model can be extended to include full spatial resolution and how the implementation of a path-integral approach may proceed if the distribution is known experimentally to significantly stray from a Gaussian description.