Many industrial, manufacturing, and energy production facilities rely on steam generators as a viable power source. The advantages of steam generators are many, but their ability to efficiently convert nearly all of the heat produced into usable energy has helped to drive their popularity in recent years.
Steam generators are complex machines made up of many different components. Of these components, the tubes are probably the most vital to the proper function of the generator as a whole.
To truly understand how vital steam generator tubes are, you need to understand how these generators work. A steam generator is essentially a closed-loop system. There are two loops in operation at all times.
The first loop is responsible for carrying heat away from a reactor core, and the second loop converts water into steam to create the electricity needed to power an industrial facility. The tubes act as a transfer point between the two loops, allowing them to share heat energy with one another without letting the contents of the loops mingle.
The potential for contamination is high when the tubes in a steam generator begin to fail. The liquid that is in the first closed loop usually contains radioactive materials that will not boil when exposed to the heat of the reactor. The water in the second loop is pure, allowing it to come to a boil so that it can be converted into steam.
The liquids in the two loops cannot come into contact with one another, or the function of the steam generator will be compromised. The tubes serve as the intersection point between the two loops. Many small tubes are positioned to allow the heat from the first loop to easily transfer into the second loop.
The more tubes that are connected to the generator, the more surface area is available for heat transfer. It would be impossible to sustain the generator of electrical power using a steam boiler if the tubes did not function efficiently.
Steam generator tubes have evolved over the years. Tubes were made from stainless steel in the early days of steam generator use, but stainless steel is susceptible to corrosion and pitting. Stainless steel tubes reduced the efficiency of the steam generator and allowed for contamination to occur on a regular basis.
Today's steam generator tubes are made from advanced metal alloys that are capable of withstanding prolonged chemical and heat exposure while maintaining their structural integrity. Improvements in tube quality have led to improvements in the overall function of steam generators.
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