Magnetohydrodynamics in free surface liquid metal flow relevant to plasma-facing components

Z. Sun, J. Al Salami, A. Khodak, F. Saenz, B. Wynne, R. Maingi, K. Hanada, C. Hu, E. Kolemen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


While flowing Liquid Metal (LM) Plasma-Facing Components (PFCs) represent a potentially transformative technology to enable long-pulse operation with high-power exhaust for fusion reactors, Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) drag in the conducting LM will reduce the flow speed. Experiments have been completed in the linear open-channel LMX-U device [Hvasta et al 2018 Nucl. Fusion 58 01602] for validation of MHD drag calculations with either insulating or conducting walls, with codes similar to those used to design flowing LM PFCs for a Fusion Nuclear Science Facility [Kessel et al 2019 Fusion Sci. Technol. 75 886]. We observe that the average channel flow speed decreased with the use of conducting walls and the strength of the applied transverse magnetic field. The MHD drag from the retarding Lorentz force resulted in an increase of the LM depth in the channel that ‘piled up’ near the inlet, but not the outlet. As reproduced by OpenFOAM and ANSYS CFX calculations, the magnitude and characteristics of the pileup in the flow direction increased with the applied traverse magnetic field by up to 120%, as compared to the case without an applied magnetic field, corresponding to an average velocity reduction of ∼45%. Particle tracking measurements confirmed a predicted shear in the flow speed, with the surface velocity increasing by 300%, despite the 45% drop in the average bulk speed. The MHD effect makes the bulk flow laminarized but keeps surface waves aligned along the magnetic field lines due to the anisotropy of MHD drag. The 3D fringe field and high surface velocity generate ripples around the outlet region. It was also confirmed that the MHD drag strongly depends on the conductivity of the channel walls, magnetic field, and volumetric flow rate, in agreement with the simulations and a developed analytical model. These validated models are now available to begin to determine the conditions under which the ideal LM channel design of a constant flow speed and fluid depth could be attained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number076022
JournalNuclear Fusion
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics


  • CFD
  • MHD
  • free surface
  • liquid metal
  • plasma-facing components


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