Structural and Mechanical Characterization of Nanocrystalline Tungsten and Tungsten-Based Alloy Thin Films for Extreme Environment Applications

Gustavo Martinez, University of Texas at El Paso


Extreme environments associated with nuclear applications often results in degradation of the physical, mechanical and thermo-mechanical properties of the materials. Tungsten (W) exhibits unique physical and mechanical properties, which makes tungsten a good candidate for nuclear applications; however, intrinsic W exhibits low fracture toughness at all temperatures in addition to a high ductile to brittle transition. In the present work, nanocrystalline W, W-Y and W-Mo alloys were nanoengineered for nuclear applications. Nanocrystalline tungsten coatings with a thickness of ~1 µm were deposited onto Silicon (100) and Sapphire (C-plane) using RF and DC sputtering techniques under various growth conditions. Yttrium content in W-Y alloys has been varied to enhance the irradiation tolerance under optimum concentration. The W, W-Y coatings were characterized to understand the structure and morphology and to establish a mapping of conditions to obtain phase and size controlled materials. The samples were then subjected to depth-controlled irradiation by neutrons and Au3+ ions. Solid solution strengthening was achieved by doping molybdenum (Mo) solute atoms to W matrix under varied sputtering pressures and temperatures with the intention of creating interstitial point defects in the crystals that impede dislocation motion, increasing the hardness and young modulus of the material. The effect of PAr (3-19 mTorr) was also investigated and associated microstructure are significant on the mechanical characteristics; the hardness (H) and modulus of elasticity (Er) of the nc W-Mo thin films were higher at lower pressures but decreases continuously with increasing PAr. Using nano-indentation and nano-scratch technique, mechanical characterization testing was performed before and after irradiation. The structure, mechanics and irradiation stability of the W and W-Y coatings will be presented and discussed to demonstrate that Y-addition coupled with nano-scale features dramatically improve the irradiation tolerance of the coatings. The structure-phase-mechanical-electrical property correlation established suggests that further options may exist to tailor the quality and performance of W-Mo films for future electronic and electromechanical device applications.

Subject Area

Mechanical engineering|Nanotechnology|Materials science

Recommended Citation

Martinez, Gustavo, "Structural and Mechanical Characterization of Nanocrystalline Tungsten and Tungsten-Based Alloy Thin Films for Extreme Environment Applications" (2017). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10598958.