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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.”

Graduate student Colin Burkhalter demonstrates the apparatus designed to performed fatigue and corrosion tests at high temperature and pressure using a high purification water circulation loop.
Graduate student Colin Burkhalter demonstrates the apparatus designed to performed fatigue and corrosion tests at high temperature and pressure using a high purification water circulation loop.

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