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Loading Mode Optimization and Structure Tailoring in Spark Plasma Sintering of Monocarbide Powder-based Components for High Temperature Applications


In this study, the spark plasma sintering (SPS) is employed to consolidate poorly sinter-able ultra-high temperature ceramic (UHTC) powders due to the fact that the conjoint application of electric current and mechanical pressure during SPS can largely offset the required processing temperature. Zirconium carbide (ZrC) is selected as target material as it broadly represents properties of typical UHTCs. Investigations on SPS of ZrC are concurrently conducted in two correlated regimes: One regime is used to optimize the SPS densification efficiency by manipulating the loading schematics. The other regime is used to produce complex shape carbide components for high temperature applications via SPS. Both theoretical and experimental studies are involved in the achievement of the formulated research objectives.

Consolidation of ZrC has been carried out to form a densification map with determining the optimal processing parameters. The densification of ZrC is studied through the continuum theory of sintering, in which the ZrC power-law creep parameters have been determined through the clarification of electrical and thermal aspects of the employed SPS system. Then the SPS-forging setup is proposed as it is theoretically and experimentally proven to be able to render more densification than the regular SPS. SPS-forging and regular SPS are eventually integrated into a hybrid loading mode SPS regime to combine the advantages of the individual setups to obtain the optimal densification kinetics.

Annular shape ZrC pellets have been fabricated using SPS. Finite element modeling framework is constructed to manifest the thermomechanical interactions during the SPS of annular shape ZrC specimens. The fabrication procedures are practically adapted to produce also annular shape carbide composites with excellent high temperature structural strength being used as alternative SPS tooling components. The applicability of annular shape fuel pellet to accommodate volume swelling under its service conditions is investigated. The irradiation-induced swelling phenomena are analyzed by analytical modeling and finite element simulations, in which the generated fission products are considered to be the sources of the fuel pellet swelling.

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