Supercritical fluids show great potential as future coolants for nuclear reactors, thermal power and solar power plants. Compared to the subcritical condition, supercritical fluids show advantages in heat transfer due to thermodynamic properties near the critical point. This can lead to the development of more compact and more efficient components, e.g. heat exchanger and compressors.

A specific field of interest is a new decay heat removal system for nuclear power plants which is based on a turbine-compressor-system with supercritical CO2 as the working fluid. In case of a station blackout this system converts the decay heat into excess electricity and low-temperature waste heat, which can be emitted to the ambient air. This scenario has already been investigated by means of the thermo-hydraulic code ATHLET, numerically demonstrating the operation of this system for more than 72 h. The practical demonstration is carried out within the Project “sCO2-HeRo”, funded by the European Commission, in which a small scale demonstration unit of the turbo compressor shall be installed at the PWR glass model at GfS, Essen, Germany. To guarantee the retrofitting of this decay heat removal system into existing nuclear power plants, the heat exchanger needs to be as compact and efficient as possible. Therefore, a diffusion welded plate heat exchanger (DWHE) was developed and manufactured at IKE. It has been designed with rectangular mini-channels (0.5–3 mm hydraulic diameter) to ensure high compactness and high heat transfer coefficients. Due to uncertainties the DWHE has to be tested in regard to the actual possible transferrable heat power and to the pressure loss. According to this demand a multipurpose facility has been built at IKE for various experimental investigations on supercritical CO2, which is in operation now. It consists of a closed loop where the CO2 is compressed to supercritical state and delivered to the test section. The test section itself can be exchanged by other ones for various investigations. After the test section, the CO2 pressure is reduced and the liquid is stored in storage tanks, from where it is evaporated and compressed again. The test facility is designed to carry out experimental investigations with CO2 mass flows up to 0.111 kg/s, pressures up to 12 MPa and temperatures up to 150 °C. The first subject of interest will be the study of the thermal behavior of a DWHE using supercritical CO2 as a working fluid close to its critical point. Experiments concerning pressure loss and heat transfer will be carried out as a start for fundamental investigation of heat transfer in mini-channels. This paper contains a detailed description of the test facility, of the first test section and first results regarding heat transfer power and pressure loss.

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