Flow-induced vibrations can have devastating consequences. For example, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington collapsed when strong winds induced vibrations that matched the natural frequency of the bridge. In California, Edison International decided to permanently shut down the nearly new San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station after vibrations in the steam generator caused alloy tubes to rub against each other, resulting in leakage and unsafe operating conditions.
Graduating engineering students Rocio Alvarez, Hilary Beutler, Jordan Page, and Nathan Porter have been working toward a solution to this design challenge. In collaboration with the Corvallis, Ore.,‑based startup, NuScale, they’re designing an experimental facility to test flow-induced vibrations in a helical coil steam generator. The facility is specifically meant to evaluate NuScale’s new numerical core skin nuclear generator design, said Beutler.
“Basically, the steam generator gets water from the core flowing all around it,” she said. “If this hot water flows fast enough, with enough force, it can cause it to vibrate and at its natural frequency, which you don’t want.” NuScale’s design, which has been submitted for patenting, promises to solve the vibration problem through its helical design, which can withstand extreme temperatures and improve heat transfer capability.