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ORNL sets up molten salt test stand in Thermal Hydraulics Laboratory

ORNL recently established a state-of-the-art laboratory capability in the Thermal Hydraulics High-Bay Laboratory. (Photo Credit: Genevieve Martin, ORNL)

ORNL recently established a state-of-the-art laboratory capability in the Thermal Hydraulics High-Bay Laboratory (Bldg. 5700) to provide a prototypic full-scale high-temperature (~700 oC) test environment for high-temperature molten chloride salt energy systems. The test stand houses three bearing components and provides valuable insight into the material and design performance of the bearings used in high-temperature energy systems.

The use of molten halide salts in advanced energy systems is growing as commercial developers propose advanced in various technology approaches to enable molten salt fission reactors, blankets in fusion devices, next generation solar power, and long duration thermal energy storage. The demonstration of full-size pump components required to circulate the molten salt — particularly the bearings used in high temperatures and high radiation fields while in contact with the molten salts (salt-wetted) — is an essential R&D need supporting the deployment of full-scale commercial power systems.

This is one of the first testing capabilities for demonstrating commercial bearings in a relevant environment and creates future opportunities for the evaluation of reliability and performance characteristics of pump designs of interest in collaboration with US industry.

The installation of such equipment requires careful planning, and ultimately contributes to the best practice guidance developed from the research. Establishing this capability required participation across the laboratory. The test stand was installed by the HFIR Hoisting & Rigging Team, supervised by Brad Sexton.

"These experts are regularly called upon to install custom and large equipment," said Nolan Goth, research associate in the Thermal Hydraulics Laboratory. "Brad's team reliably delivers, time and again, to safely and efficiently install our components, ultimately enabling our research and national impact.”

This work is supported by the Solar Energy Technologies Office in the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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