Characterization of Thermal Properties of Depleted Uranium Metal Microspheres
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Nuclear fuel comes in many forms; oxide fuel is the most commonly used in current reactor systems while metal fuel is a promising fuel type for future reactors due to neutronic performance and increased thermal conductivity. As a key heat transfer parameter, thermal conductivity describes the heat transport properties of a material based upon the density, specific heat, and thermal diffusivity. A material’s ability to transport thermal energy through its structure is a measurable property known as thermal diffusivity; the units for thermal diffusivity are given in area per unit time (e.g., m2/s). Current measurement methods for thermal diffusivity include LASER (or light) Flash Analysis and the hot-wire method. This study examines an approach that combines these previous two methods to characterize the diffusivity of a packed bed of microspheres of depleted uranium (DU) metal, which have a nominal diameter of 250 micrometers. The new apparatus is designated as the Crucible Heater Test Assembly (CHTA), and it induces a radial transient across a packed sample of microspheres then monitors the temperature profile using an array of thermocouples located at different distances from the source of the thermal transient. From the thermocouple data and an accurate time log, the thermal diffusivity of the sample may be calculated. Results indicate that DU microspheres have very low thermal conductivity, relative to solid uranium metal, and rapidly form an oxidation layer. At 500°C, the thermal conductivity of the DU microspheres was 0.431 ± 13% W/m-K compared to approximately 32 W/m-K for solid uranium metal. Characterization of the developed apparatus revealed a method that may be useful for measuring the thermal diffusivity of powders and liquids.
Travelling Wave Reactor
Laser Flash Analysis
Humrickhouse, Carissa Joy (2012). Characterization of Thermal Properties of Depleted Uranium Metal Microspheres. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from