Comparison of Nitronic 50 and Stainless Steel 316 for use in Supercritical Water Environments
Materials Science and Engineering
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Increased efficiency can greatly benefit any mode of power production. Many proposed coal, natural gas, and nuclear reactors attempt to realize this goal through the use of increased operating temperatures and pressures, and as such require materials capable of withstanding extreme conditions. One such design employs supercritical water, which in addition to high temperatures and pressures is also highly oxidizing. A critical understanding of both mechanical and oxidation characteristics of candidate materials are required to determine the viability of materials for these reactors. This work investigates two potential materials, austenitic stainless steels, namely, Nitronic-50 and stainless steel 316, for use in these conditions. The supercritical water loop at the University of Nevada, Reno allowed for the study of materials at both subcritical and supercritical conditions. The materials were investigated mechanically using slow strain rate tests under conditions ranging from an inert nitrogen atmosphere, to both subcritical and supercritical water, with the failed samples surface characterized by optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and Raman spectroscopy. Electrochemical studies were performed via potentiodynamic polarization in subcritical water only, and characterized using Raman spectroscopy. The samples were also exposed to supercritical water, and characterized using Raman spectroscopy. Nitronic-50 was found to have superior mechanical characteristics to stainless steel 316. SS-316 was found to have a surface film consisting of iron oxides, while the surface film of N-50 consisted predominantly of nickel-iron spinel. The crack interior of the sample was different from the exterior, indicating that the time and temperature of the exposure might play a defining role in determining the chemistry of the film.