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.

1.
Trenchek
,
D.
, 1961, “
Final Report of SL-1 Recovery Operation
,” May 1961–Jul. 1962, Report No. IDO-19311.
2.
Dietrich
,
J. R.
, 1957, “
Experimental Investigation of the Self-Limitation of Power During Reactivity Transients in a Subcooled, Water-Moderated Reactor, BORAX-I Experiments
,” Argonne National Laboratory Report No. ANL-5323.
3.
Miller
,
R. W.
,
Sola
,
A.
, and
McCardell
,
R.
, 1964, “
Report of SPERT-I Destructive Test Program on an Aluminum Plate-Type, Water-Moderated Reactor
,” Report No. IDO-16883.
4.
1975, Reactor Safety Study, WASH-1400, NUREG/75-0114.
5.
Anderson
,
R. P.
, and
Armstrong
,
D. R.
, 1972,
Proceedings of the Third International Conference and Exhibition on LNG
, Washington, DC.
6.
Epstein
,
S.
, 1995, Summary of Ten Years of Molten Aluminum Incident Reporting, Light Metals.
7.
Hightower
,
M.
,
Gritzo
,
L.
,
Hanlin
,
A.
,
Coran
,
J.
,
Tiezan
,
S.
,
Wellman
,
G.
,
Invon
,
M.
,
Kanesshigo
,
M.
,
Melof
,
B.
,
Morrow
,
C.
, and
Ragland
,
D.
, 2004, Sandia National Laboratory Report No. SAND 2004-6258.
8.
Richter
,
R.
,
Leon
,
D.
, and
Levendusky
,
T.
, 1997,
Investigation of Coatings Which Prevent Aluminum/Water Explosions—Progress Report, Light Metals 1997
,
R.
Huglen
, ed.,
TMS
,
Warrendale, PA
.
9.
Taleyarkhan
,
R. P.
, 2009, “
Nuclear Technology for Frontier Advances in the Natural Gas Industry
,”
Proceedings of the First Annual Gas Processing Symposium
,
H.
Alfadala
,
G.
Reklaitis
, and
M.
El-Hawagi
, eds.,
Elsevier B. V.
,
Oxford, UK
.
10.
Diwon
,
M.
,
Hanna
,
D.
, and
Shafirovich
,
E.
, and
Varma
,
A.
, 2010, “
Combustion Wave Propagation in Magnesium-Water Mixtures: Experiments and Model
,”
Chem. Eng. Sci.
0009-2509,
65
, pp.
80
87
.
11.
Corradini
,
M.
, 1984, “
Molten Fuel/Coolant Interactions: Recent Analysis of Experiments
,”
Nucl. Sci. Eng.
0029-5639,
86
, pp.
372
387
.
12.
Dullforce
,
T. A.
,
Buchanan
,
D.
, and
Peckover
,
R.
, 1976, “
Self-Triggering of Small-Scale Fuel-Coolant Interactions: I. Experiments
,”
J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys.
0022-3727,
9
, pp.
1295
1303
.
13.
Long
,
G.
, 1957, Explosions of Molten Aluminum in Water—Causes & Prevention, Metal Progress.
14.
Rightley
,
M.
,
Beck
,
D.
, and
Berman
,
M.
, 1993, “
NPR/FCI EXO-FITS Experiment Series Report
,” Sandia National Laboratories Report No. SAND91-1544.
15.
Matsumura
,
K.
, and
Nariai
,
H.
, 1996, “
Self-Triggering Mechanism of Vapor Explosions for a Molten Tin and Water System
,”
J. Nucl. Sci. Technol.
0022-3131,
33
(
4
), pp.
298
306
.
16.
Taleyarkhan
,
R. P.
, 1996, “
Method to Prevent/Mitigate Steam Explosions in Casting Pits
,” U.S. Patent No. 5,586,597.
17.
Taleyarkhan
,
R. P.
,
Georgevich
,
V.
, and
Nelson
,
L. S.
, 1997, Fundamental Experimentation and Theoretical Modeling for Prevention of Molten Aluminum-Water Steam Explosions in Casting Pits, Light Metal Age, pp.
26
35
.
18.
Taleyarkhan
,
R. P.
, 1998, “
Overview: Preventing Melt-Water Explosions
,”
Journal of Metals
0148-6608, February issue, pp.
35
38
.
19.
Taleyarkhan
,
R. P.
,
Kim
,
S. H.
, and
Knaff
,
C.
, 2001, “
Fundamental Studies on Molten Aluminum-Water Explosion Prevention in Direct-Chill Casting Pits
,”
Light Metals
,
TMS Publication
, Warrandale, PA, pp.
793
798
.
20.
Theofanous
,
T. G.
, and
Saito
,
M.
, 1981, “
An Assessment of Class-9 (Core-Melt) Accidents for PWR Dry-Containment Systems
,”
Nucl. Eng. Des.
0029-5493,
66
, pp.
301
332
.
21.
Taleyarkhan
,
R. P.
, 2005, “
Vapor Explosion Studies for Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Industries
,”
Nucl. Eng. Des.
0029-5493,
235
, pp.
1061
1077
.
22.
Nelson
,
L.
,
Eatough
,
M.
, and
Guay
,
K.
, 1989, “
Why Does Molten Aluminum Explode at Underwater or Wet Surfaces?
,”
Proceedings of 118 TMS Annual Meeting
, Las Vegas, NV.
23.
Taylor
,
G. I.
, 1950, “
The Instability of Liquid Surfaces When Accelerated in a Direction Perpendicular to Their Plane
,”
Proc. R. Soc. London, Ser. A
0950-1207,
201
, pp.
192
196
.
24.
Brandes
,
E.
, and
Brook
,
G.
, eds., 1992,
Smithell’s Metals Reference Book
,
7th ed.
,
Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd.
,
Oxford, UK
.
25.
Shaikh
,
K. A.
,
Li
,
S.
, and
Liu
,
C.
, 2008, “
Development of a Latchable Microvalve Employing a Low-Melting-Temperature Metal Alloy
,”
J. Microelectromech. Syst.
1057-7157,
17
(
5
), pp.
1195
1203
.
26.
Zielinski
,
S.
,
Sansone
,
A.
, and
Taleyarkhan
,
R. P.
, 2009, “
Melt-Water Explosive Interactions—Triggering and Suppression
,”
Proceedings of ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
, Orlando, FL, Nov. 13–19.
27.
Janed Enterprises, Inc.
, 2010, “
Alkaline and Caustic Cleaners
,” http://www.janed.net/alkaline.phphttp://www.janed.net/alkaline.php
You do not currently have access to this content.