Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

First Advisor

Karla Mossi

Second Advisor

Gokul Vasudevamurthy

Third Advisor

Lance Snead

Fourth Advisor

Reza Mohammadi

Fifth Advisor

Arunkumar Subramanian


Corrosion is a major issue in applications involving materials in normal and severe environments, especially when it involves corrosive fluids, high temperatures, and radiation. Left unaddressed, corrosion can lead to catastrophic failures, resulting in economic and environmental liabilities. In nuclear applications, where metals and alloys, such as steel and zirconium, are extensively em- ployed inside and outside of the nuclear reactor, corrosion accelerated by high temperatures, neu- tron radiation, and corrosive atmospheres, corrosion becomes even more concerning. The objec- tives of this research are to study and develop surface modification techniques to protect zirconium cladding by the incorporation of a specific barrier coating, and to understand the issues related to the compatibility of the coatings examined in this work. The final goal of this study is to recommend a coating and process that can be scaled-up for the consideration of manufacturing and economic limits.

This dissertation study builds on previous accident tolerant fuel cladding research, but is unique in that advanced corrosion methods are tested and considerations for implementation by industry are practiced and discussed. This work will introduce unique studies involving the materials and methods for accident tolerant fuel cladding research by developing, demonstrating, and consid- ering materials and processes for modifying the surface of zircaloy fuel cladding. This innova- tive research suggests that improvements in the technique to modify the surface of zirconium fuel cladding are likely.

Three elements selected for the investigation of their compatibility on zircaloy fuel cladding are aluminum, silicon, and chromium. These materials are also currently being investigated at other labs as alternate alloys and coatings for accident tolerant fuel cladding. This dissertation also investigates the compatibility of these three elements as surface modifiers, by comparing their mi- crostructural and mechanical properties. To test their application for use in corrosive atmospheres, the corrosion behaviors are also compared in steam, water, and boric-acid environments. Various methods of surface modification were attempted in this investigation, including dip coating, diffu- sion bonding, casting, sputtering, and evaporation. The benefits and drawbacks of each method are discussed with respect to manufacturing and economic limits. Characterization techniques utilized in this work include optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, energy-dispersive spec- troscopy, X-ray diffraction, nanoindentation, adhesion testing, and atomic force microscopy. The composition, microstructure, hardness, modulus, and coating adhesion were studied to provide en- compassing properties to determine suitable comparisons and to choose an ideal method to scale to industrial applications. The experiments, results, and detailed discussions are presented in the following chapters of this dissertation research.


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