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Design and performance of a variable gap system for thermal conductivity measurements of high temperature, corrosive, and rea...

by Ryan C Gallagher, Anthony H Birri, Nicholas G Russell, Nora D Ezell
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International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer
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High-temperature fluids such as molten salts, liquid metals, and gasses are being proposed for many advanced energy systems including thermal energy storage devices, concentrating solar plants, and advanced nuclear reactor designs. However, the chemical behavior and thermophysical properties of many of these fluids have not been well characterized, which hinders the design, modeling, safety analysis, and deployment of these systems. Thermal conductivity is a property that is especially limited by existing measurement capabilities, which are subject to errors caused by convection, material interaction, radiative heat transfer, and instrument degradation. Therefore, there is a lack of standard, systematic measurement techniques for high-temperature, reactive, and corrosive fluids. In this work, the development of a variable gap thermal conductivity measurement system is detailed. The system is designed to measure the thermal conductivity of highly corrosive and reactive fluids, and survive operation between 100 °C and 800 °C. The effects of convection are minimized by limiting the thickness of the specimen to thin sizes (<0.3 mm). Corrections for radiative heat transfer were included in the working equations to consider specimens with varying optical properties. The design, construction, instrumentation, operating principles, and data analysis techniques are discussed in detail. The system was tested up to 500 °C using helium gas and molten KNO3-NaNO3 to verify the measurement technique and determine the sources of error. At 300 and 400 °C KNO3-NaNO3, results showed maximum relative error of 6% when compared to results in the literature. The helium results were within 13% of those in the literature at 300 and 400 °C. Higher errors were observed at 500 °C for both fluids, and the sources of these errors are discussed.