Now, researchers at MIT have found a way to analyze one of the thorniest problems facing heat exchangers and other technologies in which boiling water plays a central role: how to predict, and prevent, a dangerous and potentially catastrophic event called a boiling crisis. This is the point when so many bubbles form on a hot surface that they coalesce into a continuous sheet of vapor that blocks any further heat transfer from the surface to the water.
Such events can cause weakening or melting, so nuclear plants are designed to operate at levels far below those that could trigger a boiling crisis. This new understanding might allow such plants to operate safely at higher output levels by reducing the needed operating margins.
Results - Today - Physical - Review - Letters
The new results are presented today in the journal Physical Review Letters in a paper by assistant professor of nuclear engineering Matteo Bucci and graduate students Limiao Zhang and Jee Hyun Seong.
"It's a very complex phenomenon," Bucci says, and although it has been "studied for over a century, it's still very controversial." Even in the 21st century, he says, "we talk about an energy revolution, a computer revolution, nanoscale transistors, all kinds of great things. Yet, still in this century, and maybe even in the next century, these are all limited by heat transfer."
Computer - Chips - Example - Processors - Liquid
As computer chips get smaller and more powerful, for example, some high-performance processors may require liquid cooling to dissipate heat that can be too intense for ordinary cooling fans. (Some supercomputers, and even some high-end gaming PCs, already use pumped water to cool their chips). Likewise, the power plants that produce most of the world's electricity, whether they be fossil fuel, solar, or nuclear plants, mainly produce power by generating steam to turn turbines.
In a nuclear plant, water is heated by the fuel rods, which heat...
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