For Lindsey Anne Gilman, SM ’12, playing with bubbles is serious work. Her PhD research project, launched this past summer, concerns ways of improving heat transfer for energy production utilizing boiling water. In nuclear reactors, the formation and movement of bubbles in boiling water turns out to be a critical issue: “If instead of nice little bubbles leaving the surface of the fuel, you get a film of vapor forming, the temperature of the fuel rods can increase,” says Gilman. “When this happens, you have reached critical heat flux. The concern is that if the temperature of the fuel rods gets high enough, the structural integrity of the rods might be compromised, and even fail.”
Gilman’s studies focus on optimizing flow conditions to achieve maximum power without compromising safety. She has just begun the first phase of her project, which entails building a software model that describes precisely what is taking place inside reactors as water heats up and approaches the boiling point. Read the full article.