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Ceramic pump makes molten metals motive

By Mary Page Bailey |

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Ga. Tech; Atlanta; www.gatech.edu) have demonstrated a precision-machining technique to manufacture an entire pumping loop from materials that can withstand temperatures as high as 1,400–1,600°C. These materials are typically thought to be too brittle for use in mechanical systems. “We identified a number of materials, but nobody had actually put them together and made a circulation loop for liquid metals,” says Asegun Henry, professor of mechanical engineering. “The real breakthrough was how to make ceramic-to-ceramic or graphite-to-graphite joints that will seal against a liquid metal like tin,” he explains. The ability to pump molten metals opens the door to a new regime of heat transfer. “A liquid metal is essentially the ultimate heat-transfer fluid. The thermal conductivities are two orders of magnitude higher than non-electrically conductive fluids,” says Henry. A major benefit is that liquid metals act as a moving heat conductor and do not need to be pumped at a high speed to induce turbulence. Harnessing the heat-transfer capabilities of liquid metals in a continuous pumping loop could enable efficient hydrogen generation by bubbling methane gas into a liquid-metal…
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