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High Power Mercury Spallation Targets


Technology is needed to mitigate cavitation damage erosion (CDE) in short-pulse liquid-mercury spallation targets. CDE has the potential to limit the power capacity and lifetime of targets. Damage has been observed inside test target vessels irradiated with small numbers of intense proton beam pulses; also, this damage has been studied at length in out-of-beam experiments that mimic the driving mechanism of cavitation. The damage is caused by intense and abrupt pressure waves that are induced by the nearinstantaneous heating of the mercury by the proton beam. Although certain surface hardening processes have shown promise in resisting damage, their potential to greatly enhance power capacity is believed to be limited. Therefore, grant applications are sought to develop:

Small gas bubbles to reduce beam-induced pressure. A population of small gas bubbles introduced in the mercury could absorb and attenuate the beam-induced pressure sufficiently to halt the driving mechanism for cavitation. The desired bubble size is approximately 10 ?m in diameter and the required void fraction approaches 1%. Grant applications are sought to develop: (1) techniques for generating this population of bubbles in mercury; and (2) credible diagnostics to quantify the generated population.

Protective gas layers: Mercury, with its highly non-wetting characteristic and high surface tension is well suited to the formation and stabilization of large gas pockets. Therefore, one promising option for damage mitigation involves the creation of an interstitial gas layer between the liquid metal and the containment vessel wall.

Innovative gas/liquid flow concepts for utilizing gas layers to protect pressure-vessel surfaces from damage due to the cavitation of flowing mercury.  Approaches of interest include: (1) the use of radiation-hard solid materials, such as metallic porous media or screens, as separate structures that are not part of the pressure boundary; (2) extensive surface modifications, such as grooves or cross-hatching to increase surface area; or (3) other geometries designed to trap gas permanently at the desired location. Because the most vulnerable pressure boundary surfaces in the SNS target are vertical, proposed solutions must address the problem of blanketing (protecting) vertical surfaces, where the hydrostatic gradient tends to force the gas to rise.

Alternative and innovative concepts for damage mitigation, aside from small gas bubbles or protective gas walls: grant applications must demonstrate an awareness of spallation target design and environmental requirements, with respect to high radiation and mercury compatibility.

Questions – contact Eliane Lessner,

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