Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Robert E. Spall


Natural convection is a phenomenon that occurs in a wide range of applications such as cooling towers, air conditioners, and power plants. Natural convection may be used in decay heat removal systems such as spent fuel casks, where the higher reliability inherent of natural convection is more desirable than forced convection. Passive systems, such as natural convection, may provide better safety, and hence have received much attention recently. Cooling of spent fuel rods is conventionally done using water as the coolant. However, it involves contaminating the water with radiation from the fuel rods. Contamination becomes dangerous and difficult for humans to handle. Further, the recent nuclear tragedy in Fukushima, Japan has taught us the dangers of contamination of water with nuclear radiation. Natural convection can perhaps significantly reduce the risk since it is self-sufficient and does not rely on other secondary system such as a blower as in cases of forced convection.

The Utah State University Experimental Fluid Dynamics lab has recently designed an experiment that models natural convection using heated rod bundles enclosed in a rectangular cavity. The data available from this experiment provides and opportunity to study and validate computational fluid dynamics(CFD)models. The validated CFD models can be used to study multiple configurations, boundary conditions, and changes in physics(natural and/or forced convection). The results are to be validated using experimental data such as the velocity field from particle image velocimetry (PIV), pressure drops across various sections of the geometry, and temperature distributions along the vertically heated rods. This research work involves modeling natural convection using two-layer turbulence models such as k - ε and RST (Reynolds stress transport) using both shear driven (Wolfstein) and buoyancy driven (Xu) near-wall formulations. The interpolation scheme employed is second-order upwinding using the general purpose code STAR-CCM+. The pressure velocity coupling is done using the SIMPLE method. It is ascertained that turbulence models with two-layer formulations are well suited for modeling natural convection. Further it is established that k - ε and Reynolds stress turbulence models with the buoyancy driven (Xu)formulation are able to accurately predict the flow rate and temperature distribution.