Automation for Nuclear Molten Salt Research

"Working with Endigit was fantastic. After I first reached out, the lined me up with an applications engineering to talk about potential hardware for the project and how to integrate it with LabVIEW to accomplish all the functions we needed. The software was delivered on time and has been very user friendly for undergraduate students to use. When we needed some alterations, the team was easy to work with and the cost was reasonable. Using Endigit shaved months off the development time of the project." - Dr. Troy Munro Brigham Young University Mechanical Engineering"

Challenge

Brigham Young University’s TEMP lab needed to measure the thermal conductivity of molten salts used in advanced nuclear reactors to better model their behavior. The measurements required a series of fast, repeatable operations involving multiple pieces of hardware. It was unreasonable for these measurements to be made manually, but an automated system of software controlled tasks would be able to do it.

Solution

The solution involved working with the customer to make sure measurements could be collected in the right order while meeting timing requirements. Endigit developed a user interface that gave the user manual control of hardware and included the ability to start an automated sequence of data collection. Endigit also provided on site support to set up and verify the hardware connections and overall functionality.

Introduction

One of the most critical steps of research is being able to get your idea off the ground. Many great ideas have been left by the wayside because of the difficulty of turning an idea into reality. Molten salt reactors are on the frontier of nuclear energy production and promise significant safety gains over traditional reactors. BYU TEMP Lab was seeking to measure the thermal conductivity of molten salts used in these reactors to better model their behavior. They had made a novel temperature sensor custom built for use in molten salt environments. It acted as a resistance based temperature sensor and would be used to collect data for calculating the thermal properties of the molten salt. To enable their research goals, Endigit created user friendly software that allowed an operator to run an automated test sequence of triggering a power supply, measuring experiment parameters, logging the data to file, and creating a post-test report. The software controls hardware that measures resistance in the prototype diamond substrate RTD temperature sensor before and after triggering a power supply to excite the heating source. The automated test collected thermocouple data through the sequence that researchers used in the data analysis models. In addition to an automated test sequence, the software also provided the operator controls to manually operate the hardware independently of the automated test.

Process

To develop a strong solution to BYU’s research needs we started by documenting the criteria for success with the TEMP lab research assistants and leading professor. This resulted in a list of clear requirements that we could work from to develop the software the customer needed. The research assistants walked us through the desired data collection process so we knew exactly what the software needed to do. We proceeded to develop the user interface that provided manual control to the hardware the research lab would be using and also displayed the collected data of interest. Before going onsite to assist in set up we connected it to hardware and made sure the proper drivers and interfaces would be included to successfully control the hardware. After development of the user interface and hardware control, Endigit provided on site support to install and test the software. After the user had a chance to use it and run experiments, feedback was collected and incorporated into the final version that was delivered after updates were made. The software used a queue based state machine to control the sequence of data collection events and handle user input to manually control the hardware. The software logged milliseconds worth of data collected at megahertz sampling rates. The experimental report created an easy to see document of the important measurements including date, time, voltage graphs, DMM readings, and thermocouple graphs.

Results

Increase in data collection efficiency and more rapid experimental deployment.

Benefits

  • Able to record data for experiments quickly
  • Easy to use interface for manual control of hardware
  • Automated report generation

Hardware

  • Tenma TSX3510P Power Supply
  • Keysight AG3446X DMM
  • NI USB-6361 Multifunction I/O Device
  • NI-9210 Temperature Input Module

Software Modules

  • LabVIEW
  • DAQmx
  • Keysight DMM Driver
  • Tenma Power Supply Instrument Driver
  • Custom Latex Report Generation Toolkit

Contact Endigit to work together in implementing the solutions that will address your automation needs. Like we did with Brigham Young University’s TEMP Lab, we are ready to help consolidate and automate processes that will increase your efficiency.

Contact Endigit