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Prediction of Critical Heat Flux in Water-Cooled Plasma Facing Components Using Computational Fluid Dynamics

D. L. Youchison, M. A. Ulrickson, J. H. Bullock

Fusion Science and Technology

Volume 60 / Number 1 / July 2011 / Pages 177-184


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Several commercial computational fluid dynamics (CFD) codes now have the capability to analyze Eulerian two-phase flow using the Rohsenow nucleate boiling model. Analysis of boiling due to one-sided heating in plasma facing components (pfcs) is now receiving attention during the design of water-cooled first wall panels for ITER that may encounter heat fluxes as high as 5 MW/m2. Empirical thermalhydraulic design correlations developed for long fission reactor channels are not reliable when applied to pfcs because fully developed flow conditions seldom exist. Star-CCM+ is one of the commercial CFD codes that can model two-phase flows. Like others, it implements the RPI model for nucleate boiling, but it also seamlessly transitions to a volume-of-fluid model for film boiling. By benchmarking the results of our 3d models against recent experiments on critical heat flux for both smooth rectangular channels and hypervapotrons, we determined the six unique input parameters that accurately characterize the boiling physics for ITER flow conditions under a wide range of absorbed heat flux. We can now exploit this capability to predict the onset of critical heat flux in these components. In addition, the results clearly illustrate the production and transport of vapor and its effect on heat transfer in pfcs from nucleate boiling through transition to film boiling.

This article describes the boiling physics implemented in CCM+ and compares the computational results to the benchmark experiments carried out independently in the United States and Russia. Temperature distributions agreed to within 10 °C for a wide range of heat fluxes from 3 MW/m2 to 10 MW/m2 and flow velocities from 1 m/s to 10 m/s in these devices. Although the analysis is incapable of capturing the stochastic nature of critical heat flux (i.e., time and location may depend on a local materials defect or turbulence phenomenon), it is highly reliable in determining the heat flux where boiling instabilities begin to dominate. Beyond this threshold, higher heat fluxes lead to the boiling crisis and eventual burnout. This predictive capability is essential in determining the critical heat flux margin for the design of complex 3d components.

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