Fundamental Deformation Micromechanics in a Zircaloy-4 Alloy and the Hydrogen Effects on its Microstructure, Internal Stresses, and Fatigue Behavior

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Materials Science and Engineering

Major Professor

Hahn Choo

Committee Members

Peter K. Liaw, Yanfei Gao, David C. Joy


Zircaloy-4 alloys, polycrystalline zirconium alloys, are extensively used in the nuclear industry. During the service in the reactor, these alloys absorb hydrogen, leading to formation of zirconium hydrides, which may be enhanced by the stress field around a crack tip. In order to investigate these phenomena in a Zircaloy-4 alloy, the effect of internal stresses on the hydride precipitation and the subsequent influence on the fatigue behavior has been studied.

Firstly, the deformation systems responsible for the polycrystalline plasticity at the grain level, in a hexagonal-close-packed, coarse-grained, and random-textured Zircaloy-4 alloy are considered. The evolution of internal strains was measured in-situ, using neutron diffraction, during uniaxial tensile loading up to 7% strain. The macroscopic stress-strain curve and the intergranular (hkil-specific) strain development, parallel and perpendicular to the loading direction, are measured. Then, a new elastoplastic self-consistent (EPSC) modeling scheme is employed to simulate the experimental results. The model shows a good agreement with the measured data.

Secondly, the hydride phase formation and its influence on fatigue crack growth in Zircaloy-4 alloy are investigated. The microstructure and fatigue behavior of the Zircaloy alloy in the as-received condition is shown. Then, the formation and distribution of hydride phase in the alloy, and its effect on microstructure and the fatigue crack propagation rates is discussed. The residual lattice strain profile ahead of a fatigue crack has been also measured using neutron diffraction. The combined effect of residual strain and hydride precipitation on the fatigue behavior is presented and discussed. In addition, the zirconium lattice strains evolution under applied loads of 900, 1,800, and 2,700 N in the presence of hydrides is studied, and compared with the as-received condition.

Finally, we report the experimental results from neutron incoherent scattering and neutron radiography studies on hydrogen charged Zircaloy-4 specimens.

Future work is planned to study the kinetics of hydride formation under applied load, using neutron diffraction and in-situ hydrogen charging.

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