Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

Heng Ban


Heng Ban


Byard Wood


Barton Smith


Thermal conductivity is an important thermophysical property needed for effectively predicting nuclear fuel performance. As part of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) program, the thermal conductivity of tri-isotropic (TRISO) fuel needs to be measured over a temperature range characteristic of its usage. The composite nature of TRISO fuel requires that measurement be performed over the entire length of the compact in a non-destructive manner. No existing measurement system is capable of performing such a measurement.

A measurement system has been designed based on the steady-state, guarded comparative-longitudinal heat flow technique. The system is capable of measuring cylindrical samples with diameters ∼12.3 mm (∼0.5 in.) with lengths ∼25 mm (∼1 in.). The system is currently operable in a temperature range of 100-700°C for materials with thermal conductivities on the order of 10-70 W*m-1*K-1. The system has been designed, built, and tested. An uncertainty analysis for the determinate errors of the system has been performed finding a result of 6%.

Measurements have been performed on three calibration/validation materials: a certified glass ceramic reference material, 99.95% pure iron, and Inconel 625. The deviation of the validation samples is < 6-8% from the literature values. In addition, surrogate NGNP compacts and NGNP graphite matrix-only compacts have been measured. The results give an estimation of the thermal conductivity values that can be expected. All the results are presented and discussed.

A Finite Element Analysis was done to compare the accuracy of multiple effective conductivity models. The study investigated the effects of packing structure, packing fraction, matrix thermal conductivity, and particle heat generation. The results show that the Maxwell and the Chiew & Glandt models provide the most accurate prediction of the effective thermal conductivity of the TRISO fuel compacts.

Finally, a discussion of ongoing work is included as well as the possibility of correlating effective thermal properties of fuel compacts to their constituents with measurements of well-defined samples.




This work made publicly available electronically on February 15, 2013.