Failure of a Stirling Engine Heat Pipe
A Stirling engine heat pipe failed after only 2h of operation in a test situation. Cracking at the leading edge of an evaporator fin allowed air to enter the system and react with the sodium coolant. The fin was fabricated from 0.8 mm (0.03 in.) thick Inconel 600 sheet. The wick material was type 316 stainless steel. Macro- and microexaminations of specimens from the failed heat pipe were conducted. The fin cracking was caused by overheating that produced intergranular corrosion in both the fin and the wick. Recommendations for alleviating the corrosion problem included reducing the heat flux, redesigning the wick, and reducing the oxygen content of the sodium.