Design and Parametric Study of a Pneumatic Transfer and Storage System for Nuclear Samples

Photo of Sally McMenamin, Darrell Morehouse, Matt Wright Students: Sally McMenamin, Darrell Morehouse, Matt Wright

Sponsor: UT Austin Nuclear Engineering Teaching Laboratory

Date: Fall 2011

Requirements:
The team was tasked with developing a pneumatic system to quickly transfer samples from the RSR to a shielded container of the team's design. The transfer subsystem was required to operate with a 0% expected rate of failure, but precautions were taken to minimize possible radiation exposure in the event of failure. The container subsystem must reduce radiation exposure below acceptable levels, allow access to individual samples, and be easily movable by one person. The system the team designed was also required to integrate with the reactor without altering the existing configuration or inhibiting any functionality. Finally, the system must be implemented for less than $10,000.

Problem:
The Nuclear Engineering Teaching Laboratory (NETL), in the interest of advancing research in nuclear science and engineering, frequently performs studies on the effects of radiation on materials for its partners in academia and industry. The current irradiation process, involving manual loading and unloading from a rotary specimen rack (pictured), or RSR, is time-consuming and presents a danger of radiation exposure.

Solution:
The team used a variety of analysis methods to assess the feasibility of a pneumatic transfer system, including development of a computer model from fluid mechanics principles, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), finite element analysis (FEA), and a physical experiment to validate these results. These methods were also used to find performance parameters for the system to be designed. The system itself consisted of a structure to join the transfer system to the RSR, a sample routing and deceleration apparatus, and the shielded container. The team selected components for use in constructing the system and projected its cost and expected revenues. It is recommended that the team's work will be continued by a second team in the following term, and specific avenues for further design work and implementation were identified.

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