Numerical and experimental characterization of ceramic pebble beds under cycling mechanical loading
All solid breeder concepts considered to be tested in ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), make use of lithium-based ceramics in the form of pebble-packed beds as tritium breeder. A thorough understanding of the thermal and mechanical properties of the ceramic pebble beds under fusion relevant conditions is essential for the design of the breeder blanket modules of future fusion reactors. In this study, the effect of cyclic loading on the mechanical behaviour of pebble bed assemblies was investigated using a Discrete Element Method (DEM) code. The numerical simulations were compared with the experimental outcomes. The results of numerical simulations show that the pebble size distribution affects noticeably the stress-strain behaviour of the assemblies. A good qualitative agreement between experimental and simulation results was found in terms of difference between residual strains of consecutive cycles. An increase of the oedometric modulus with the compressive load was observed for all investigated compositions in both experimental and DEM simulations. The numerical results show an increase of the oedometric modulus (E) with progressive compaction of the assemblies due to the cycling loading, while no significant influence of the pebbles size distribution was observed.
Keywords: pebble beds, numerical simulation, granular materials, breeder blankets, ceramic breeder.