Students Design High Temperature/Pressure Fatigue Testing Apparatus
Department saves thousands on equipment enhancement and capabilities
In 2016, U of I faculty members from mechanical engineering, materials science, and chemical engineering were awarded a Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP) Infrastructure grant to enhance U of I’s environmental fatigue testing capabilities. Professor Bob Stephens was the primary recipient of the award and was tasked with development of the laboratory facilities.
Instead of buying a load frame and controller from a vendor, Dr. Stephens chose to sponsor a ME424/426 senior capstone design project and tasked the team to design, construct, and test the system prior to their departure. The final cost for the load frame/controller was on the order of $25,000, while the original budget for the components was earmarked for nearly $100,000.
“The great part about this is that it provided a group of ME seniors an excellent capstone experience while at the same time saving us a significant amount of money that we then sunk into the purchase of other key components for the entire assembly,” Dr. Stephens said. Master’s graduate Nick Shaber ’19 was a key mentor for the design project, and his wealth of knowledge from working in Bob’s lab the previous year and a half was invaluable.
Graduate student Colin Burkhalter has been tasked with bringing the entire system together and has already performed a couple of preliminary tests. The complete apparatus is designed to performed fatigue and corrosion tests at high temperature and pressure using a high purification water circulation loop. Temperatures can exceed 500ºF and pressures up to 3,000 psi.
“Implementation of the entire system has been challenging as there are a lot of idiosyncrasies associated with the loading frame, autoclave, heating and cooling components, and that we basically have a pressure vessel with very hot water,” said Dr. Stephens. “So testing is one thing, but safety is a whole other matter. It is believed there is only one other piece of equipment like this west of the Mississippi so we are excited to get this up and running.”