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Prohlems of cavitation have been important in liquid metal fluids at least since the earlv 1950s when, to my personal knowledge, it was to design high temperature centrifugaI pumps for sodimn and sodiUln-potassium alloy of minimum size and weight for the aircraft nuclear powerplant project then UlHler development in the United Sta- tes. Il hecame quickly evident that cavitation "would impose limits on the possihle miniaturization of this equipment. Il ,vas also evident that it was not known whether or not cavitation could he expected under the same conditions UlHler whieh it ,vould occm' in water, or, if it did oecUl" whether or not cavitation damage would he an important problem. This latter issue assumed particular importance since a relatively short life, as eompar- ed to ordinary industrial practice, was required of the equipment. Although research progress has heen made in the intervening years, one must admit that the same questions rcmain lar'gely unanswered today.

During the late H150s and carly l()(jOs liquid metal cavitation receivcd rencwed interest in the United States in connection with the development of several types of space nuclear powerplants (SNAP systems) for the production of electrieal

• Profcssor, Dcpartment of Nuclear Engincering, Uniycl'sity of Michigan, Ann Arhol', Michigan (U.S.A.).

power ahoard space vehicles. Some of these were to use liquid metal Rankine cycles to convert the heat energy l'rom a nuclear to mechanical energy. As for the aircraft nuclear powerplant, the miniaturization of the pumps associated with these Hankine cycles and ,vith the coolant circuits is limited by cavitation and the questions cited above in conneetion with the aireraft nuclear plant

Article published by SHF and available at or


are still pertinent. The prohlem was aCf01'avated

'. T" • "_. _, ,_ bb

1Il SNAP slnce long, unattended life was required.

The liquid metals involved include mercurv, sodium, potassium, and lithium. "

Liquid metal cavitation research in the United

States has heen conducted at several government

laboratories and industrial concerns, and also at

the author's laboratory at the University of Michi-

gan. ' "

At the present time, new important interest have arisen with regard to liquid metal cavitation in connection with sodium-cooled fast neutron breeder readors. These are discussed in the next section.

Cavitation and reBated phenomena problems with fast neutron breeder reactor

A. "Noise problem".

A present safety concept in many fast l'cadol' designs is that "boiling noise" should he detec1ed and used as a signal to activate safety circuits and


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 Supercritical Fluid Extraction lhb1968003.pdf Page 001
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