Recrystallization-mediated crack initiation in tungsten under simultaneous high-flux hydrogen plasma loads and high-cycle transient heating

Y. Li (Corresponding author), T.W. Morgan, T. Vermeij, J.W.M. Vernimmen, Th. Loewenhoff, J.P.M. Hoefnagels, J.A.W. van Dommelen, M. Wirtz, G. De Temmerman, K. Verbeken, M.G.D. Geers

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Tungsten and tungsten-based alloys are the leading material choices for the divertor plasma facing components (PFCs) in future fusion reactors. Recrystallization may occur when they undergo high heat loads, drastically modifying the predesigned grain structures and the associated desired mechanical properties. However, the influence of recrystallization on the thermal fatigue behavior of tungsten PFCs still remains unclear. In this study, ITER-grade tungsten was simultaneously exposed to a high-flux hydrogen plasma (∼5 1024 m-2 s-1) and high-cycle (104-105) transient heat loads in the linear plasma device Magnum-PSI. By correlating the surface temperature distribution, obtained by analyzing temperature-, wavelength-, and surface-dependent emissivity, and the surface modifications of the plasma exposed specimens, the crack initiation heat flux factor threshold was found to be ∼2 MW m-2 s0.5 (equivalently, ∼0.07 MJ m-2 for a 1 ms pulse). Based on electron backscatter diffraction analyses of cross-sections near the crack initiation sites, faster recrystallization kinetics near the surface compared to literature was observed and the surface cracks preferentially initiated at high angle grains boundaries (HAGBs). Upon recrystallization, the yield strength decreases which entails increasing cyclic plastic strains. The HAGBs fraction is increased, which constrains the transfer of plastic strains at grain boundaries. The recrystallization decreases the dislocation density, which promotes heterogeneous deformation. All these mechanisms explain the reduced crack initiation threshold of recrystallized tungsten compared to its as-received counterpart. The results provide new insights into the structural failure mechanisms in tungsten PFCs exposed to extreme fusion plasmas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number046018
Number of pages16
JournalNuclear Fusion
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© EURATOM 2021.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • EBSD
  • edge localized modes (ELMs)
  • hydrogen plasma
  • PFCs
  • thermal fatigue
  • tungsten recrystallization


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