Development of Heat Transfer Enhancement Techniques for External Cooling of an Advanced Reactor Vessel

Open Access
Yang, Jun
Graduate Program:
Mechanical Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 30, 2005
Committee Members:
  • Fan Bill B Cheung, Committee Chair
  • Horacio Perez Blanco, Committee Member
  • Stefan Thynell, Committee Member
  • John Harlan Mahaffy, Committee Member
  • Dhushy Sathianathan, Committee Member
  • H Joseph Sommer Iii, Committee Member
  • CHF
  • two-phase flow
  • microporous coating
  • boiling heat transfer enhancement techniques
  • downward facing boiling
  • nucleate boiling
Nucleate boiling is a well-recognized means for passively removing high heat loads (up to 10^6 W/m^2) generated by a molten reactor core under severe accident conditions while maintaining relatively low reactor vessel temperature (<800 C). With the upgrade and development of advanced power reactors, however, enhancing the nucleate boiling rate and its upper limit, Critical Heat Flux (CHF), becomes the key to the success of external passive cooling of reactor vessel undergoing core disrupture accidents. In the present study, two boiling heat transfer enhancement methods have been proposed, experimentally investigated and theoretically modelled. The first method involves the use of a suitable surface coating to enhance downward-facing boiling rate and CHF limit so as to substantially increase the possibility of reactor vessel surviving high thermal load attack. The second method involves the use of an enhanced vessel/insulation design to facilitate the process of steam venting through the annular channel formed between the reactor vessel and the insulation structure, which in turn would further enhance both the boiling rate and CHF limit. Among the various available surface coating techniques, metallic micro-porous layer surface coating has been identified as an appropriate coating material for use in External Reactor Vessel Cooling (ERVC) based on the overall consideration of enhanced performance, durability, the ease of manufacturing and application. Since no previous research work had explored the feasibility of applying such a metallic micro-porous layer surface coating on a large, downward facing and curved surface such as the bottom head of a reactor vessel, a series of characterization tests and experiments were performed in the present study to determine a suitable coating material composition and application method. Using the optimized metallic micro-porous surface coatings, quenching and steady-state boiling experiments were conducted in the Sub-scale Boundary Layer Boiling (SBLB) test facility at Penn State to investigate the nucleate boiling and CHF enhancement effects of the surface coatings by comparing the measurements with those for a plain vessel without coatings. An overall enhancement in nucleate boiling rates and CHF limits up to 100% were observed. Moreover, combination of data from quenching experiments and steady-state experiments produced new sets of boiling curves, which covered both the nucleate and transient boiling regimes with much greater accuracy. Beside the experimental work, a theoretical CHF model has also been developed by considering the vapor dynamics and the boiling-induced two-phase motions in three separate regions adjacent to the heating surface. The CHF model is capable of predicting the performance of micro-porous coatings with given particle diameter, porosity, media permeability and thickness. It is found that the present CHF model agrees favorably with the experimental data. Effects of an enhanced vessel/insulaiton structure on the local nucleate boiling rate and CHF limit have also been investigated experimentally. It is observed that the local two-phase flow quantities such as the local void fraction, quality, mean vapor velocity, mean liquid velocity, and mean vapor and liquid mass flow rates could have great impact on the local surface heat flux as boiling of water takes place on the vessel surface. An upward co-current two-phase flow model has been developed to predict the local two-phase flow behavior for different flow channel geometries, which are set by the design of insulation structures. It is found from the two-phase flow visualization experiments and the two-phase flow model calculations that the enhanced vessel/insulation structure greatly improved the steam venting process at the minimum gap location compared to the performance of thermal insulation structures without enhancement. Moveover, depending on the angular location, steady-state boiling experiments with the enhanced insulation design showed an enhancement of 1.8 to 3.0 times in the local critical heat flux. Finally, nucleate boiling and CHF correlations were developed based on the data obtained from various quenching and steady-state boiling experiments. Additionally, CHF enhancement factors were determined and examined to show the separate and integral effects of the two ERVC enhancement methods. When both vessel coating and insulation structure were used simultaneously, the integral effect on CHF enhancement was found much less than the product of the two separate effects, indicating possible competing mechanisms (i.e., interference) between the two enhancement methods.