Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

Heng Ban


Heng Ban


Byard Wood


Leijun Li


Steven Folkman


David Hurley


Most existing thermal conductivity measurement techniques of nuclear fuel only measure the overall effective thermal conductivity of the fuel, cladding, and gap, with low spatial-resolution. However, damage to nuclear fuel microstructure caused by neutron-irradiation can result in sharp, local changes of thermal conductivity. Additionally, extremely large temperature-gradients (~1600 K/cm) from the fuel centerline to the coolant result in similar gradients of thermal conductivity. Therefore, in pursuit of greater understanding of nuclear fuel performance, the objective of this study was to develop a non-contact thermal conductivity measurement technique to provide micron-sized spatial-resolution capability. Based on photothermal techniques and using both frequency and spatial-domain photothermal reflectance methods, an experimental measurement system was designed, built, and tested for measuring the thermal conductivity of a thin-film coated material with micron resolution. This hybrid method involves separate measurement of thermal diffusivity, D, and thermal effusivity, e, from which, thermal conductivity, k = (e2/D)1/2 is calculated. A detailed parametric analysis using analytical solutions and a numerical model has been performed to guide the experiment and optimize measurement conditions. The measurement system was validated using two calibration samples having thermal conductivities at both the upper and lower limit of the common range of nuclear fuels (~1 - 10 W/m/K). Sources of experimental errors are discussed qualitatively and the uncertainty of the measurement system for the thermal conductivity range of interest is quantified. The measured error is found to be about 10%, and up to close to 20% for the worst case (upper limit of k range). An extended application of the modulated laser excitation technique is explored to measure mechanical properties of solid materials. This technique involves obtaining the natural frequencies of different vibrational modes of a cantilever beam sample allowing for the extraction of the elasticity constants of the material. From Neumann's principle, the number of independent elasticity constants is dependent on the symmetry of the material structure. Specifically, symmetries of crystalline materials and composite materials are analyzed. Experimental results of two validation samples with cubic crystal system agreed well with the published values with experimental errors of ~10%.