Supercritical-Fluids Thermophysical Properties and Heat Transfer in Power-Engineering Applications
Researches on specifics of thermophysical properties and heat transfer at supercritical pressures (SCPs) started as early as the 1930s with the study on free-convection heat transfer to fluids at a near-critical point. In the 1950s, the concept of using SC “steam” to increase thermal efficiency of coal-fired thermal power plants became an attractive option. Germany, USA, the former USSR, and some other countries extensively studied heat transfer to SC fluids (SCFs) during the 1950s till the 1980s. This research was primarily focused on bare circular tubes cooled with SC water (SCW). However, some studies were performed with modeling fluids such as SC carbon dioxide and refrigerants instead of SCW. Currently, the use of SC “steam” in coal-fired thermal power plants is the largest industrial application of fluids at SCPs. Near the end of the 1950s and at the beginning of the 1960s, several studies were conducted to investigate a possibility of using SCW as a coolant in nuclear reactors with the objective to increase thermal efficiency of nuclear power plants (NPPs) equipped with water-cooled reactors. However, these research activities were abandoned for some time and regained momentum in the 1990s. In support of the development of SCW-cooled nuclear-power reactor (SCWR) concepts, first experiments have been started in annular and various bundle flow geometries. At the same time, more numerical and CFD studies have been performed in support of our limited knowledge on specifics of heat transfer at SCPs in various flow geometries. As the first step in this process, heat transfer to SCW in vertical bare tubes can be investigated as a conservative approach (in general, heat transfer in fuel bundles will be enhanced with various types of appendages, that is, grids, end plates, spacers, bearing pads, fins, ribs, etc.). New experiments in the 1990–2000s were triggered by several reasons: (1) thermophysical properties of SCW and other SCFs have been updated from the 1950s–1970s, for example, a peak in thermal conductivity in the critical/pseudocritical points was “officially” introduced in 1990s; (2) experimental techniques have been improved; (3) in SCWRs, various bundle flow geometries will be used instead of bare-tube geometry; (4) in SC “steam” generators of thermal power plants, larger diameter tubes/pipes (20–40 mm) are used, however in SCWRs hydraulic-equivalent diameters of proposed bundles will be within 5–12 mm; (5) with Research and Development (R&D) of next-generation or Generation-IV nuclear-power-reactor concepts, new areas of application for SCFs have appeared—for example, SCP helium was proposed to be used as a reactor coolant, SCP Brayton and Rankine cycles with SC carbon dioxide as a working fluid are being developed, etc. A comparison of thermophysical properties of SCFs with those of subcritical-pressure fluids showed that SCFs as single-phase fluids have unique properties, which are close to “liquid-like” behavior below critical or pseudocritical points and are quite similar to the behavior of “gas-like” substances above these points. A comparison of selected SCW heat transfer correlations has shown that their results may differ from one to another by more than 200%. Based on these comparisons, it became evident that there is a need for reliable, accurate, and wide-range SCW heat transfer correlation(s) to be developed and verified. Therefore, the objective of this chapter is to summarize in concise form specifics of supercritical-fluids thermophysical properties and heat transfer in power-engineering applications.
Part of the book: Advanced Supercritical Fluids Technologies