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Research Papers: Combustion and Reactive Flows

Prevention and Intensification of Melt-Water Explosive Interactions

[+] Author and Article Information
Stephen M. Zielinski

School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907szielins@purdue.edu

Anthony A. Sansone

School of Nuclear Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907asansone@purdue.edu

Matthew Ziolkowski

School of Nuclear Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907mziolkow@purdue.edu

Rusi P. Taleyarkhan1

College of Engineering, School of Nuclear Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907rusi@purdue.edu

1

Corresponding author.

J. Heat Transfer 133(7), 071201 (Mar 30, 2011) (8 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4003531 History: Received February 12, 2010; Revised January 06, 2011; Published March 30, 2011; Online March 30, 2011

The combination of a hot fluid (e.g., molten metals) and a cold vaporizing fluid (e.g., water) can undergo spontaneous or externally assisted explosive interactions. Such explosions are a well-established contributor to the risk for nuclear reactors exemplified by the infamous Chernobyl accident. Once fundamentals are understood, it may be possible to not only prevent but also, more importantly, control the intensity for useful applications in the areas covering variable thrust propulsion with tailored pressure profiles, for enhancing rapid heat transfer, and also for powder metallurgy (i.e., supercooled powder production, wherein materials turn superplastic with enhanced ductility). This paper discusses results of experiments conducted with various molten metals, specifically, tin, gallium, galinstan, and aluminum interacting with water (with and without salt), and with and without noncondensable gases such as hydrogen or air. It is found that under the appropriate conditions, spontaneous and energetic phase changes can be initiated within milliseconds if the hot metal is tin or galinstan, including the timed feedback of shocks leading to chain-type reactions. Using 3–10 g of tin or galinstan, shock pressures up to 25 bars (350 psig) and mechanical power over 2-4kW were monitored about 4 cm from the explosion zone. The interaction could be intensified more than ten folds by dropping the melt through an argon atmosphere. A slow metal quenching interaction occurring over tens of seconds could be turned explosive to transpire within milliseconds if the thermal states are within the so-called thermal interaction zone. Such explosive interactions did not transpire with gallium or aluminum due to tough oxide coatings. However, by adding 10w/o of salt in water, molten Gallium readily exploded. It was also conclusively revealed that, for an otherwise spontaneously explosive interaction of tin-water or galinstan-water, the inclusion of trace (0.3 w/o) quantities of aluminum has a radical influence on stabilizing the system and ensuring conclusive prevention of explosion triggering. This paper compares and presents the results obtained in this study and draws analogies with industrial scale aluminum casthouse safety involving thousands of kilograms of melt. Insights are provided for enabling physics-based prevention, or, alternately, the intentional initiation of explosions.

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Copyright © 2011 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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References

Figures

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Figure 12

Argon atmosphere intensified galinstan-water explosion results for test No. 169 (melt at 800°C and water at 20°C)

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Figure 11

Fragmentation results: gallium-water interaction (10 w/o NaCl, melt at 700°C and water at 30°C)

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Figure 10

Experimental results for galinstan-water system at various melt and water temperatures

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Figure 9

Experimental results for tin-water system at various melt and water temperatures

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Figure 8

Pressure versus time history during galinstan-water explosion experiments (melt at 800°C and water at 20°C)

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Figure 7

Single galinstan drop fragmentation images at 2 ms intervals

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Figure 6

Single tin drop fragmentation images at 2 ms intervals

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Figure 5

Multiple galinstan drop fragmentation images at 2 ms intervals

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Figure 4

Normalized mass distribution of tin based on degree of fragmentation

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Figure 3

(a) Resulting fragments of galinstan after very good type interaction and (b) resulting fragments of galinstan after none type interaction

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Figure 2

(a) Resulting fragments of tin after “very good” type interaction and (b) resulting fragments of tin after “none” type interaction

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Figure 1

(a) Schematic of crucible used for melt-water interaction experiments and (b) schematic of setup used for melt-water interaction experiments

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