Quantifying the effect of hydride microstructure on zirconium alloys embrittlement using image analysis

Pierre Clément A. Simon, Cailon Frank, Long Qing Chen, Mark R. Daymond, Michael R. Tonks, Arthur T. Motta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Because hydride microstructure can significantly influence Zr alloy nuclear fuel cladding's ductility, a new metric has been developed to quantify hydride microstructure in 2D micrographs and relate it to crack propagation. As cladding failure usually results from a hoop stress, this new metric, called the Radial Hydride Continuous Path (RHCP), is based on quantifying the continuity of brittle hydride particles along the radial direction of the cladding tube. Compared to previous metrics, this approach more closely relates to the propensity of a crack to propagate radially through the cladding tube thickness. The RHCP takes into account hydride length, orientation, and connectivity to choose the optimal path for crack propagation through the cladding thickness. The RHCP can therefore be more closely linked to hydride embrittlement of the Zr alloy material, thus creating a relationship between material structure, properties, and performance. The new definition, along with previously proposed metrics such as the Radial Hydride Fraction (RHF), the Hydride Continuity Coefficient (HCC), and the Radial Hydride Continuity Factor (RHCF), have been implemented and automated in MATLAB. These codes are made available with this publication as supplementary materials. These metrics were verified by comparing their predictions of hydride morphology against expected values in simple cases, and the implementation of the new metric was validated by comparing its predictions with manual measurements of hydride microstructure performed on ImageJ. The RHCP was also validated against experimental measurements of fracture behavior and it was shown to correlate with cladding failure better than previous metrics. The information provided by these metrics will help accurately assess cladding integrity during operation, transportation, and storage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number152817
JournalJournal of Nuclear Materials
StatePublished - Apr 15 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • General Materials Science
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering


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