The automation of resonant thermometer probe measurements

  • Ali A. Fathimani

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


An ultrasonic thermometer has been developed for high temperature measurement over a wide temperature range. It is particularly suitable for use in measuring nuclear fuel rod centerline temperatures in advanced liquid metal and high flux nuclear reactors.
The thermometer which was designed to determine fuel temperature up to the fuel melting point, utilizes the temperature dependence of the ultrasonic propagation velocity (related to the elastic modulus} in a thin rod sensor as the temperature transducing mechanism.
A pulse excitation technique has been used, where the mechanical resonator at the remote end of the acoustic·line is madto vibrate. Its natural frequency is proportional to the ultrasonic velocity in the material. This is measured
by the electronic instrumentation and enables a frequency­ temperature or period-temperature calibration to be obtained.
A completely digital automatic instrument has been designed, constructed and tested to track the resonance frequency of the temperature sensors. It operates smoothly over a frequency range of about 30%, more than the maximum working range of most probe materials.
The control uses the basic property of a resonator that the stored energy decays exponentially at the natural frequency of the resonator.The operation of the electronic system is based on a digital multichannel transmitter that is capable of operating with a predefined number of cycles in the burst. this overcomes a basic defect in the previous deslgn where the analogue time-delayed circuits failed to hold synchronization and hence automatic control could be lost.
Development of a particular type of temperature probe, that is small enough to fit into a standard 2 mm reactor tube has made the ultrasonic thermometer a practicable device for measuring fuel temperature. The bulkiness of previous probes has been overcome, the new design consists of a tuning fork, integral with a 1mm line, while maintaining a frequency of no more than 100 kHz.
A magnetostrictive rod, acoustically matched to the probe is used to launch and receive the acoustic oscillations. This requires a magnetic bias and the previously used bulky magnets have been replaced by a direct current coil. The probe is supported by terminating the launcher with a short heavy isolating rod which can be secured to the reactor structure. This support, the bias and launching coil and the launcher are made up into a single compact unit.
On the material side an extensive study of a wide range of refractory materials identified molybdenum, iridium, rhenium and tungsten as satisfactory for a number of applications but mostly exhibiting to some degree a calibration drift with thermal cycling. When attention was directed to ceramic materials, Sapphire (single crystal alumina) was found to have numerous advantages, particularly in respect of stability of calibration which remained with ±2°C after many cycles to 1800oC.
Tungsten and thoriated tungsten (W - 2% Tho2) were also found to be quite satisfactory to 1600oC, the specification for a Euratom application.

Date of Award1976
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJ.F.W. Bell (Supervisor)


  • automation
  • resonant thermometer probe measurements

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