The pioneering work on boiling was done in 1934 by S. Nukiyama, who used electrically heated nichrome and platinum wires immersed in liquids in his experiments. Nukiyama was the first to identify different regimes of pool boiling using his apparatus. He noticed that boiling takes different forms, depending on the value of the wall superheat temperature ΔTsat (also known as the excess temperature), defined as the difference between the wall temperature, Twall, and the saturation temperature, Tsat.
Four different boiling regimes of pool boiling (based on the excess temperature) are observed:
- Natural Convection Boiling ΔTsat < 5°C
- Nucleate Boiling 5°C < ΔTsat < 30°C
- Transition Boiling 30°C < ΔTsat < 200°C
- Film Boiling 200°C < ΔTsat
These regimes are illustrated on the boiling curve in the figure, which is a plot of heat flux versus the excess temperature. Although the boiling curve given in this figure is for water, the general shape of the boiling curve remains the same for different coolants. Note that the specific shape of the curve also depends on the system parameters, such as the pressure and coolant flow rate. Still, it is practically independent of the geometry of the heating surface.
The most common type of local boiling encountered in nuclear facilities is nucleate boiling. But in the case of nuclear reactors, nucleate boiling occurs at significant flow rates through the reactor. In nucleate boiling, steam bubbles form at the heat transfer surface and then break away and are carried into the mainstream of the fluid. Such movement enhances heat transfer because the heat generated at the surface is carried directly into the fluid stream. Once in the main fluid stream, the bubbles collapse because the bulk temperature of the fluid is not as high as the heat transfer surface temperature where the bubbles were created. As was written, nucleate boiling at the surface effectively disrupts this stagnant layer. Therefore, nucleate boiling significantly improves the ability of a surface to transfer thermal energy to the bulk fluid. This heat transfer process is sometimes desirable because the energy created at the heat transfer surface is quickly and efficiently “carried” away.
Close to the wall, the situation is complex for several mechanisms increase the heat flux above that for pure conduction through the liquid.
- Note that, even in turbulent flow, there is a stagnant fluid film layer (laminar sublayer) that isolates the surface of the heat exchanger. The upward flux (due to buoyant forces) of vapor away from the wall must be balanced by an equal mass flux of liquid, and this brings cooler liquid into closer proximity to the wall.
- The formation and movement of the bubbles turbulises the liquid near the wall and thus increases heat transfer from the wall to the liquid.
- Boiling differs from other forms of convection in that it depends on the latent heat of vaporization, which is very high for common pressures. Therefore large amounts of heat can be transferred during boiling essentially at a constant temperature.
The nucleate boiling heat flux cannot be increased indefinitely. We call it the “critical heat flux” (CHF) at some value. The steam produced can form an insulating layer over the surface, deteriorating the heat transfer coefficient. This is because a large fraction of the surface is covered by a vapor film, which acts as thermal insulation due to the low thermal conductivity of the vapor relative to that of the liquid. Immediately after the critical heat flux has been reached, boiling becomes unstable, and transition boiling occurs. The transition from nucleate boiling to film boiling is known as the “boiling crisis”. Since the heat transfer coefficient decrease beyond the CHF points, the transition to film boiling is usually inevitable.
Boiling Crisis – Critical Heat Flux
As was written, in nuclear reactors, limitations of the local heat flux are of the highest importance for reactor safety. For pressurized water reactors and boiling water reactors, there are thermal-hydraulic phenomena that cause a sudden decrease in the efficiency of heat transfer (more precisely in the heat transfer coefficient). These phenomena occur at a certain value of heat flux, known as the “critical heat flux”. The phenomena that cause heat transfer deterioration are different for PWRs and BWRs.
In both types of reactors, the problem is more or less associated with departure from nucleate boiling. The nucleate boiling heat flux cannot be increased indefinitely. We call it the “critical heat flux” (CHF) at some value. The steam produced can form an insulating layer over the surface, which in turn deteriorates the heat transfer coefficient. Immediately after the critical heat flux has been reached, boiling becomes unstable, and film boiling occurs. The transition from nucleate boiling to film boiling is known as the “boiling crisis”. As was written, the phenomena that cause the deterioration of heat transfer are different for PWRs and BWRs.[/lgc_column]