Optimization of a graphite tube blackbody heater for a thermogage furnace

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Journal Article
International Journal of Thermophysics, 2008, 29 (1), pp. 386 - 394
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Design modifications are presented for a 289-mm long, 25.4-mm inner diameter blackbody heater element of a 48 kW Thermogage blackbody furnace, based on (i) cutting a small "heater zone" into the ends of the tube and (ii) using a mixture of He and Ar or N 2 to "tune" the heat losses and, hence, gradients in the furnace. A simple numerical model for the heater tube is used to model and optimize these design changes, and experimental measurements of the modified temperature profile are presented. The convenience of the Thermogage graphite-tube furnace, commonly used in many NMIs as a blackbody source for radiation-thermometer calibration and as a spectral irradiance standard, is limited by its effective emissivity, typically between 99.5% and 99.9%. The design simplicity of the furnace is that the blackbody cavity, heater, and electrical and mechanical connections are achieved through a single piece of machined graphite. As the heater also performs a mechanical function, the required material thickness leads to significant axial heat flux and resulting temperature gradients. For operation at a single temperature, changes to the tube profile could be used to optimize the gradient. However, it is desired to use the furnace over a wide temperature range (1,000-2,900°C), and the temperature-dependence of the electrical conductivity and thermal conductivity, and that of the insulation, makes this approach much more complex; for example, insulation losses are proportional to T 4, whereas conduction losses are proportional to T. In the results presented here, a slightly thinner graphite region near each end of the tube was used to "inject heat" to compensate for the axial conduction losses, and the depth, width, and position of this region was adjusted to achieve a compromise in performance over a wide temperature range. To assist with this optimization, the insulation purging gas was changed from N 2 to He at the lower temperatures to change the thermal conductivity of the felt insulation, and the effectiveness of this approach has been experimentally confirmed. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
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