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Corrosion Behavior of Potential Structural Materials for use in Nitrate Salts Based Solar Thermal Power Plants
AuthorSummers, Kodi Lee
Chemical and Materials Engineering
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The increasing global demand for electricity is straining current resources of fossil fuels and placing increased pressure on the environment. The implementation of alternative sources of energy is paramount to satisfying global electricity demand while reducing reliance on fossil fuels and lessen the impact on the environment. Concentrated solar power (CSP) plants have the ability to harness solar energy at an efficiency not yet achieved by other technologies designed to convert solar energy to electricity. The problem of intermittency in power production seen with other renewable technologies can be virtually eliminated with the use of molten salt as a heat transfer fluid in CSP plants.Commercial and economic success of CSP plants requires operating at maximum efficiency and capacity which requires high temperature and material reliability. This study investigates the corrosion behavior of structural alloys and electrochemical testing in molten nitrate salts at three temperatures common to CSP plants. Corrosion behavior was evaluated using gravimetric and inductively-coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) analysis. Surface morphology was studied using scanning electron microscopy. Surface oxide structure and chemistry was characterized using X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, energy dispersive spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Electrochemical behavior of candidate structural alloys Alloy 4130, austenitic stainless steel 316, and super-austenitic Incoloy 800H was evaluated using potentiodynamic polarization characteristics. It was observed that electrochemical evaluation of these candidate materials correlates well with the corrosion behavior observed from gravimetric and ICP-OES analysis. This study identifies that all three alloys exhibited acceptable corrosion in 300°C molten salt while elevated salt temperatures require the more corrosion resistant alloys, stainless steel 316 and 800H. Characterization of the sample surfaces revealed the presence of spinels at lower temperatures, while Fe2O3 was the dominant iron oxide at higher temperatures for each alloy. It is recommended that accelerated corrosion testing be investigated further to evaluate alloys in other molten salt systems considered for utilization in concentrated solar power plants.