Cavity Evolution at Grain Boundaries as a Function of Radiation Damage and Thermal Conditions in Nanocrystalline Nickel

Enhanced radiation tolerance of nanostructured metals is attributed to the high density of interfaces that can absorb radiation-induced defects. Here, cavity evolution mechanisms during cascade damage, helium implantation, and annealing of nanocrystalline nickel are characterized via in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Films subjected to self-ion irradiation followed by helium implantation developed evenly distributed cavity structures, whereas films exposed in the reversed order developed cavities preferentially distributed along grain boundaries. Post-irradiation annealing and orientation mapping demonstrated uniform cavity growth in the nanocrystalline structure, and cavities spanning multiple grains. These mechanisms suggest limited ability to reduce swelling, despite the stability of the nanostructure.