We investigated the atomistic mechanism of He–He and He–metal interactions in bcc transition metals (V, Nb, Ta, Cr, Mo, W, and Fe) using first-principles methods. We calculated formation energy and binding energy of He–He pair as function of distance within the host lattices.

The strengths of He–He attraction in Cr, Mo, W, and Fe (0.37–1.11 eV) are significantly stronger than those in V, Nb, and Ta (0.06–0.17 eV). Such strong attractions mean that He atoms would spontaneously aggregate inside perfect Cr, Mo, W, and Fe host lattices in absence of defects like vacancies. The most stable configuration of He–He pair is <100> dumbbell in groups VB metals, whereas it adopts close <110> configuration in Cr, Mo, and Fe, and close <111> configuration in W.

Overall speaking, the He–He equilibrium distances of 1.51–1.55 Å in the group VIB metals are shorter than 1.65–1.70 Å in the group VB metals. Moreover, the presence of interstitial He significantly facilitates vacancy formation and this effect is more pronounced in the group VIB metals.

The present calculations help understand the He-metal/He–He interaction mechanism and make a prediction that He is easier to form He cluster and bubbles in the groups VIB metals and Fe.

This article originally appeared in Journal of Nuclear Materials 467, Part 1, 2015, Pages 465–471.