Paper presented at the 9th International Conference on Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics, Malta, 16-18 July, 2012.
Because of their unique properties, supercritical fluids are becoming increasingly popular for industrial applications. These fluids behave liquid like at low temperatures and gas like at higher temperatures, with a smooth transition in between. This makes them very suited as a solvent for chemical extraction and separation processes. Another important use is as a power fluid. Modern fossil fuel fired power plants all operate using supercritical water, and on a smaller power scale they are considered for organic rankine cycles and refrigeration. As they heat up, the density of a supercritical fluid changes shows a very sharp drop for temperatures close to the critical point. This large density difference can be used as the driving force to circulate the fluid in a loop, rather than using a pump. This idea is similar to natural circulation boiling loops, but the density difference is larger. It adds a layer of inherent safety to a design, as active components such as pumps are no longer required; but also adds an additional complexity: flow instabilities. It is well known from natural circulation boiling systems, that these loops can become unstable under certain conditions (e.g. high power and low flow rate). In this study, a simple supercritical loop is studied to determine the neutral stability boundary. This is done through linear stability analysis: the set of one-dimensional governing equations is first linearised and then the eigenvalues are determined. These describe the response, indicating if it is stable or not. The results indicate that there is a clear unstable area, which can be linked to different types of instabilities.