We report the adiabatic elastic constants of single-crystal thorium dioxide over a temperature range of 77–350 K. Time-domain Brillouin scattering, an all-optical, non-contact picosecond ultrasonic technique, is used to generate and detect coherent acoustic phonons that propagate in the bulk perpendicular to the surface of the crystal. These coherent acoustic lattice vibrations have been monitored in two hydrothermally grown single-crystal thorium dioxide samples along the (100) and (311) crystallographic directions. The three independent elastic constants of the cubic crystal (C11, C12, and C44) are determined from the measured bulk acoustic velocities. The longitudinal wave along the (100) orientation provided a direct measurement of C11. Measurement of C44 and C12 was achieved by enhancing the intensity of quasi-shear mode in a (311) oriented crystal by adjusting the polarization angle relative to the crystal axes. We find the magnitude of softening of the three elastic constants to be ∼2.5% over the measured temperature range. Good agreement is found between the measured elastic constants with previously reported values at room temperature, and between the measured temperature-dependent bulk modulus with calculated values. We find that semi-empirical models capturing lattice anharmonicity adequately reproduce the observed trend. We also determine the acoustic Grüneisen anharmonicity parameter from the experimentally derived temperature-dependent bulk modulus and previously reported temperature-dependent values of volumetric thermal expansion coefficient and heat capacity. This work presents measurements of the temperature-dependent elasticity in single-crystal thorium dioxide at cryogenic temperature and provides a basis for testing ab initio theoretical models and evaluating the impact of anharmonicity on thermophysical properties.

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