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An Atomistic Modeling Study of Alloying Element, Impurity Element, and Transmutation Products on the Cohesion of a Nickel Σ5 {001} Twist Grain Boundary

GA Young, Jr, R Najafabadi, W Strohmayer, DG Baldrey, WL Hamm, J Harris, J Sticht and Erich Wimmer
Technical Report OSTI 821509

Atomistic modeling was used to investigate the effects of impurity elements on the metallurgy, irradiation embrittlement, and environmentally assisted cracking of nickel-base alloys. Calculations were performed via ab initio atomistic modeling on a nickel Σƒ5 {001} twist grain boundary. A Griffith-type fracture criterion was used to quantitatively assess the effect of elements or element pairs on the grain boundary cohesive strength. In order of most embrittling to most strengthening, the impurity elements are ranked as: He, Li, S, H, C, Zr, P, Fe, Mn, Nb, Cr, and B. Helium is strongly embrittling (- 2.04 eV/atom lowering of the Griffith energy), phosphorus has little effect on the grain boundary (0.1 eV/atom), and boron offers appreciable strengthening (1.03 eV/atom increase in the Griffith energy). Calculations for pairs of elements (H-Li, H-B, H-C, H-P, and H-S) show little interaction on the grain boundary cohesive energy, so that for the conditions studied, linear superposition of elemental effects is a good approximation. These calculations help explain metallurgical effects (e.g. why boron strengthens nickel grain boundaries), the mechanisms of irradiation embrittlement (e.g. how boron transmutation results in grain boundary embrittlement), as well as how grain boundary impurity elements influence the environmentally assisted cracking resistance of nickel-base alloys.