The effect of solute hydrogen on the stability of vacancy clusters in hexagonal closed packed zirconium is investigated with an ab initioapproach, including contributions of H vibrations. Atomistic simulations within the density functional theory evidence a strong binding of H to small vacancy clusters.

The hydrogen effect on large vacancy loops is modeled through its interaction with the stacking faults. A thermodynamic modeling of H segregation on the various faults, relying on ab initiobinding energies, shows that these faults are enriched in H, leading to a decrease of the stacking fault energies. This is consistent with the trapping of H by vacancy loops observed experimentally. The stronger trapping, and thus the stronger stabilization, is obtained for vacancy loops lying in the basal planes, i.e.the loops responsible for the breakaway growth observed under high irradiation dose.

This article originally appeared in Acta Materialia, 102, 2016, Pages 56-59.