Determination of the local configuration of interacting defects in a crystalline, periodic solid is problematic because defects typically do not have a long-range periodicity. Uranium dioxide, the primary fuel for fission reactors, exists in hyperstoichiometric form, UO2+x. Those excess oxygen atoms occur as interstitial defects, and these defects are not random but rather partially ordered. The widely-accepted model to date, the Willis cluster based on neutron diffraction, cannot be reconciled with the first-principles molecular dynamics simulations present here. We demonstrate that the Willis cluster is a fair representation of the numerical ratio of different interstitial O atoms; however, the model does not represent the actual local configuration. The simulations show that the average structure of UO 2+x involves a combination of defect structures including split di-interstitial, di-interstitial, mono-interstitial, and the Willis cluster, and the latter is a transition state that provides for the fast diffusion of the defect cluster. The results provide new insights in differentiating the average structure from the local configuration of defects in a solid and the transport properties of UO2+x.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Wang, J., Ewing, R., & Becker, U. (2014). Average structure and local configuration of excess oxygen in UO 2+x. Scientific Reports, 4 https://doi.org/10.1038/srep04216