Introductory investigation of the Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube as a particle separation device for the PBMR

Burger, Anja (2010-03)

Thesis (MScEng (Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) is a Generation IV graphite-moderated helium cooled nuclear reactor which is being developed in South Africa. The PBMR design is based on the German Arbeitsgemeinschaft Versuchreaktor (AVR). The AVR was decommissioned in December 1988 due to operational and safety problems. The PBMR project has put a lot of emphasis on safety and therefore all safety issues relating to the AVR have to be addressed before this technology can be implemented. After the decommissioning of the AVR plant, technicians found radioactive isotopes of cesium 55Cs137, 55Cs134, silver 44Ag110 and strontium 38Sr90 as well as graphite dust in the primary coolant loop of the reactor. These isotopes as well as the graphite dust have to be removed from the helium coolant stream because it can be potentially harmful to equipment, personnel and the general public. The main objective of this thesis is therefore to investigate a separation method for removing the graphite dust (and with it the radioactive isotopes) from the helium coolant stream and also test this method under different operating conditions and geometrical configurations to determine its dust separation efficacy. The device chosen to investigate is the Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube. The Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube (RHVT) is a simple device having no moving parts that produces a hot and cold air stream simultaneously at its two ends from a compressed air source. The vortex generated by the vortex generator located at the inlet of the RHVT causes strongly rotating flows similar in speed to that of a gas centrifuge. The gas centrifuge is used for isotope separation. The RHVT, in theory, can therefore be implemented to separate the graphite/silver isotopes from the helium coolant with the added benefit of either cooling or heating the coolant and was thus selected as the separation technique to be tested experimentally. The dust separation efficiency of the RHVT was tested experimentally using different grades of graphite dust, different fluids, various inlet volumetric flow rates and volume fractions and different RHVT geometries. The experimental results showed that the RHVT has a dust separation efficiency of more than 85 %. A regression analysis was also done with the experimental data to obtain a correlation between the different operating conditions (such as volumetric flow rate) and the dust separation efficiency that can be used to predict the dust efficiency under different operating and geometric conditions (such as the PBMR environment). An analytical model is also presented to describe the ‘temperature separation’ phenomenon in the RHVT, using basic thermo-physical principals to gain a better understanding of how the RHVT works. A CFD analysis was also attempted to supplement the analytical analysis but the solution did not converge and therefore only the preliminary results of the analysis are discussed.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die “Pebble Bed Modular Reactor” (PBMR) is `n vierde generasie grafiet gemodereede en helium verkoelde reaktor wat in Suid-Afrika ontwikkel word. Die PBMR ontwerp is gebaseer op the Duitse Arbeitsgemeinschaft Versuchreaktor (AVR) wat buite werking gestel is in Desember 1988 as gevolg van operasionele en veiligheidsprobleme. Die PBMR projek lê baie klem op veiligheid en daarom moet alle veiligheidskwessies van die AVR eers aangespreek word voor die tegnologie geimplementeer kan word. Nadat die AVR buite werking gestel is, het AVR tegnisie radioaktiewe isotope van cesium 55Cs137, 55Cs134, silwer 44Ag110 en strontium 38Sr90 asook grafiet stof in die primêre stroomkring van die reaktor gevind. Hierdie isotope sowel as die grafiet stof moet uit die helium verkoelingsmiddel in die primere stroomkring van die reaktor verwyder word aangesien dit dalk skadelik kan wees vir toerusting, personeel en die publiek. Die hoofdoelwit van hierdie tesis is dus om `n skeidingstekniek te ondersoek wat die stof (en dus ook die radioaktiewe isotope) uit die helium verkoelingsmiddel kan verwyder. Hierdie tegniek moet dan getoets word onder verskillende operasionele en geometriese toestande om die skeidingsbenuttingsgraad te bepaal. Die toestel wat gekies is om ondersoek te word is die “Ranque-Hilsch Vortex Tube”. Die “Ranque-Hisch Vortex Tube” (RHVT) is a eenvoudige uitvindsel wat geen bewegende parte bevat nie en wat warm en koue lug gelyktydig produseer vanaf `n saamgepersde lugbron. ‘n Baie sterk roteerende vloei word gegenereer in die RHVT wat dieselfde snelhede bereik as die lug in `n gas-sentrifugeerder. Die gas- sentrifugeerder word gebruik as `n isotoopskeidingsapparaat. In teorie kan die RHVT dus ook gebruik word om partikels te skei as gevolg van die sterk roteerende vloei, met die voordeel dat dit ook die lug kan verhit en verkoel. As gevolg van hierde redes is die RHVT gekies as die skeidingstegniek om te ondersoek en dus experimenteel te toets. Die benuttingsgraad van die RHVT se vermoë om die grafiet stof van die lug te skei was gevolglik eksperimenteel getoets deur gebruik te maak van verskillende gehaltes grafiet stof, verskillende vloeistowwe (lug of helium), verskillende inlaat volumevloeitempos en volume fraksies en RHVT geometrieë. Die experimentele resultate het getoon dat die RHVT `n benuttingsgraad van meer as 85 % het. `n Regressie analise was ook gedoen met die eksperimentele data om `n korrelasie tussen die verskillende opersionele toestande (soos volumevloeitempo) en die stof skeiding benuttingsgraad te kry. Hierdie korrelasie kan dan gebruik word om die stofskeidingsbenuttingsgraad onder ander operasionele en geometriese omstandighede, soos die PBMR omgewing, te voorspel. `n Analitiese model word ook voorgestel om die “temperatuur-skeidings” meganisme in die RHVT te verduidelik, met die hulp van basiese termo-fisiese beginsels, om beter te verstaan hoe dit werk. Daar was ook gepoog om `n CFD analise te doen wat die analitiese model kon aanvul, maar die numeriese oplossing het nie gekonvergeer nie en dus word net die voorlopige resultate van dié analise bespreek.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/4201
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