Uranium Dioxide (UO2) is a significant nuclear fission fuel, which is widely used
in nuclear reactors. Understanding the influence of microstructure on thermo-mechanical behavior of UO2 is extremely important to predict its performance. In particular, evaluating mechanical properties, such as elasticity, plasticity and creep at sub-grain length scales is key to developing this understanding as well as building multi-scale models of fuel behavior with predicting capabilities. In this work, modeling techniques were developed to study effects of microstructure on Young’s modulus, which was selected as a key representative property that affects overall mechanical behavior, using experimental data obtained from micro-cantilever bending testing as benchmarks. Beam theory was firstly introduced to calculate Young's modulus of UO2 from the experimental data and then three-dimensional finite element models of the micro-cantilever beams were constructed to simulate bending tests in UO2 at room temperature. The influence of the pore distribution was studied to explain the discrepancy between predicted values and experimental results. Results indicate that results of tests are significantly affected by porosity given that both pore size and spacing in the samples are of the order of the micro-beam dimensions. Microstructure reconstruction was conducted with images collected from three-dimensional serial sectioning using focused ion beam (FIB) and electron backscattering diffraction (EBSD) and pore clusters were placed at different locations along the length of the beam. Results indicate that the presence of pore clusters close to the substrate, i.e., the clamp of the micro-cantilever beam, has the strongest effect on load-deflection behavior, leading to a reduction of stiffness that is the largest for any location of the pore cluster. Furthermore, it was also found from both numerical and i
analytical models that pore clusters located towards the middle of the span and close to the end of the beam only have a very small effect on the load-deflection behavior, and it is concluded that better estimates of Young's modulus can be obtained from micro- cantilever experiments by using microstructurally explicit models that account for porosity in about one half of the beam length close to the clamp. This, in turn, provides an avenue to simplify micro-scale experiments and their analysis.