Corrosion Mitigation in Molten Salts for Solar Energy Collection


Molten chloride salts are ideal fluids to be used in concentrated solar power (CSP) plants because of their high thermal stability, low viscosity, and excellent heat transfer properties. They are being considered by the solar power industry to replace organic liquids and nitrate salts for heat transfer and storage in future CSP plants. The problem is that chloride salts can be highly corrosive in the presence of water, and they have a high affinity to absorb moisture. The likely solution to this problem is to develop methods to continuously monitor and control the oxidation potential of the molten salt. Chemical and electrochemical methods can be used to mitigate or even eliminate corrosion in molten chloride salts. This project is aimed at testing different monitoring and control methods for oxidation potential in molten chloride salts which have suitable properties for CSP plants.

Student Role

The student will learn basic operating procedures for working with high temperature furnaces in argon atmosphere glove boxes. She or he will set up electrochemical cells, take samples, record experimental results, and write reports to document findings and conclusions. The student will learn to use electrochemical test equipment and furnaces in addition to instrumentation such as DSC/TGA thermal analyzers and ICP-OES chemical analysis instruments. It is expected that the student will co-author a journal publication and present their work either as an oral or poster presentation at a workshop or conference.


Student will learn basic laboratory and research skills. Student will gain experience and expertise in working with molten salts and relevant characterization methods. This experience will be particularly valuable for students considering graduate school and/or careers in physical science research. Student will also learn how to prepare research reports, including posters and/or journal papers. This project is a great compliment to coursework in metallurgical and chemical engineering. Basic principles in thermodynamics, kinetics, electrochemistry, and transport phenomena will be utilized and studied.

Michael Simpson

Metallurgical Engineering
College of Mines & Earth Sciences
Nuclear Engineering Program

My mentoring philosophy is to initially work closely with new students with new students, put them in a supportive group environment, and let them develop increasing sense of independence. Daily supervision is an impractical approach in a productive university laboratory. Students need to develop self reliance but also know that they have plenty of resources and support as needed. Open door policy and periodic lab visits are key to good mentoring of a large research group. There must also be a high bar of expectation placed on the students to exceed expectations. Formal meetings are occasionally held, but informal as-needed mentoring is more typical of my group.