Atomistic simulations of void migration under thermal gradient in UO2

Tapan G. Desai, Paul Millett, Michael Tonks, Dieter Wolf

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25 Scopus citations


It is well known that within a few hours after startup of a nuclear reactor, the temperature gradient within a fuel element causes migration of voids/bubbles radially inwards to form a central hole. To understand the atomic processes that control this migration of voids, we performed molecular dynamics (MD) simulations on single crystal UO2 with voids of diameter 2.2 nm. An external temperature gradient was applied across the simulation cell. At the end of the simulation run, it was observed that the voids had moved towards the hot end of the simulation cell. The void migration velocity obtained from the simulations was compared with the available phenomenological equations for void migration due to different transport mechanisms. Surface diffusion of the slowest moving specie, i.e. uranium, was found to be the dominant mechanism for void migration. The contribution from lattice diffusion and the thermal stress gradient to the void migration was analyzed and found to be negligible. By extrapolation, a crossover from the surface-diffusion-controlled mechanism to the lattice-diffusion-controlled mechanism was found to occur for voids with sizes in the μm range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-339
Number of pages10
JournalActa Materialia
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Metals and Alloys


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