Skip to main content

Tribocorrosion of stainless steel sliding against graphite in FLiNaK molten salt

Publication Type
Journal Name
Publication Date
Page Number

The molten salt reactor (MSR) concept recently gained renewed interest in developing Generation IV nuclear reactors. One MSR design uses fluoride molten salts to cool tri-structural isotropic particle fuel encapsulated by a carbon matrix into spherical pebbles, which would inevitably contact the reactor's stainless steel container wall during salt circulation. Characterizing this interaction is crucial for reactor safety. Here we report the tribocorrosion behavior of graphite sliding against Type 316H stainless steel lubricated by a FLiNaK (LiF:NaF:KF; 46.5:11.5:42 mol %) molten salt in an argon environment. Accelerated wear loss was observed at a higher temperature because of a lower molten salt viscosity and a higher corrosion rate. The graphite had a more rapid material loss at a higher sliding speed than stainless steel because of its higher vulnerability to vibration-induced microfracture. The salt-starved condition caused more material loss than either the no-salt or the salt-flooded condition because neither a graphite transfer film nor stable boundary lubrication could be established at salt starvation. An interesting dual-layer surface film was discovered on the stainless steel worn surface: a chromium-rich top film and a nickel-accumulated but chromium-depleted interlayer. The film composition and structure provide fundamental insights to the mechanochemical interactions between stainless steel and graphite in a molten salt environment.