Diamond Thin Film Exposure to Simulated Thermionic Reactor Environments 929303

The high temperature and high neutron flux environment of a thermionic space power reactor presents a challenge in the design of the sheath insulator within a thermionic fuel element. The present alumina insulator design is suspect to degradation due to the neutron flux. The alumina insulator also requires a barrier coating to isolate it from the liquid alkali metal coolant. Although the alumina sheath development is progressing, the alumina insulator remains a potential point of significant performance loss in the thermionic fuel element.
The recent successes in depositing polycrystalline diamond film onto cylindrical refractory metal substrates has led to the consideration of diamond as a potentially ideal sheath insulator. Investigations have been conducted into the durability of diamond thin film under exposure to simulated thermionic reactor conditions. Results will be presented from exposure tests in which diamond film has been subjected to a continuous flow of sodium coolant at 1000K and in which a cylindrical fuel element size diamond film has been exposed to simulated reactor temperatures and analyzed through microscopy. This paper relates these results to the development status of the diamond film thermionic sheath insulator.


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