Free-Surface Liquid Lithium Flow Modeling and Stability Analysis for Fusion Applications

Andrei Khodak, Fan Yang, Howard A. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Liquid metal plasma facing components are considered an attractive design choice for fusion devices including pilot plants. Virtual prototyping of such devices includes modeling of free-surface flow of the electrically conductive liquid, which requires computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) simulations. Numerical tools capable of simulating flows and heat transfer in the free-surface MHD flow were developed at PPPL based on the customized ANSYS CFX. MHD is introduced using a magnetic vector potential approach. Free-surface flow capabilities are available in the code and were tested. Special stabilization procedures were derived and applied to improve convergence of the momentum equations with the source terms due to the Lorentz force and surface tension. Important characteristics of the fusion-relevant liquid metal flow is free surface smoothness and stability. Heat flux from the plasma impacts the liquid surface at a very acute angle, so any change of the free surface from axisymmetry can dramatically increase the local heat flux density and thus create excessive evaporation of liquid lithium into the plasma, which is detrimental to operations. Stability analysis of the liquid metal film flow was performed to determine applicable flow regimes. Thin film flow along horizontal wall is considered. Effects of gravity, magnetic field, and surface tension are included in the analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-461
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Fusion Energy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering


  • CFD
  • Liquid lithium
  • MHD
  • Stability analysis


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