I have a furnace working on tungsten heating elements. The elements were damaged several times, and they are very expensive. The furnace can work at higher than 2000 C. I am wondering what the factors are that may damage the elements.

Is it possible to be damaged if the electricity is unstable? By means, if there is a high voltage or high current?

Also, there may be electrical arc during operation, so can it damage the elements?

Finally, how can I avoid the electrical arc?

  • The max temp is 2400 C.
  • In nitrogen atmosphere about 30 Torr.
  • The elements are mesh.
  • It's three phase.
  • The max volts must be 7 volt since there is a transformer which converts 12 kV.
  • It must be able to run for long time such as 100 hrs.

Usually, my furnace reaches 2000 C at 4 volt and 480 amp. However, last time the volt was 8 volt and the amp was 390-400. That means the resistance in the elements increased because they (elements) were degrading. But my question is that is it possible to damage the elements if the electricity is not stable? Or do you think the problem was with the element itself?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Is the temperature sensor OK? \$\endgroup\$ – Dirceu Rodrigues Jr Jan 7 '17 at 12:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, the temp sensor is OK. But why? \$\endgroup\$ – Hayder Jan 7 '17 at 12:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ MUCH more data needed. Brand/model / weblinks? What are elements rated Tmax? Voltage? Power? heating time?, WHY is there an arc? From where to where? Atmosphere? - air, vacuum, inert, ... . What are you heating. Element construction?- mesh air wound, ceramic, sealed, open, ...? ALL the info you have please. \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Jan 7 '17 at 13:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow. That is hot. I am guessing that some kind of oxidizing gas may be present to cause degradation of the tungsten. Possibly the sample being heated is off-gassing? \$\endgroup\$ – mkeith Jan 7 '17 at 19:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd start looking for leaks, or inadequate flushing procedures - while I'm more familiar with Kanthal elements that want an oxide coating/oxidizing atmosphere and are damaged in reducing atmospheres, I'd guess that your tungsten elements would be damaged by oxygen exposure when hot. \$\endgroup\$ – Ecnerwal Jan 7 '17 at 19:27

Based on change of element resistance with change of temperature your system may be OK unless you have other information not given here that indicates elemement damage.

Why do you think the element is damaged?
Arcing will often cause damage, but the change in resistance reported may be due solely to the thermal coefficient of resistance of Tungsten - see below.

You say that the furnace reached 2000 C at 4V x 480A and that Tmax is 24500 C.
You mention applying 8V - what is the maximum rated element voltage?

4V x 480A = 1920 Watts.
Your reported 8V x 390A = 3120 Watts.

IF temperature rise above ambient is dependant on energy loss through insulation then delta T ~ proportional to Wattage. This may not be the case, but what power/temperature law do you expect, and why?
(Note that the rough calculations below based on element resistance do NOT support this linear delta-T with power model).

As Wattage is 3120/1920 = 1.625 times higher then if the essentially linear power-temperature relationship suggested above applies, then you might expect temperature to be somewhere over 3000 degrees C.

The suggested upper heating temperature for Tungsten mesh in inert atmospheres is 3000 C and commercial furnaces are often rated to below that - eg see the Oxygon brochure referenced below.

Even if a furnace has been designed to operate at the temperatures you are achieving, it must also be assembled and maintained to mechanically meet the original specification.
At 3000C (and even at 2400C) you need the whole furnace to be designed AND assembled to exacting specs as uneven heating will allow hotspots which may well be fatal to the element.

These people Oxygon consider themselves to be expert in this field - but I'd hope that whoever supplied your system is equally able to advise.

Note that in this brochure Oygon talk about " ... such as operating temperatures up to 2800°C (5072°F); ". It seems that at the power levels you were reaching you have been raising the temperatures above the maximum tolerable. Localised melting of the mesh would explain resistance rise.

Element resistance & resistivity change with temperature.

From the data given I will assume that the values given for V & I allow the element resistance when heated to be calculated. Any non element portions at such low resistances may affect this assumption adversely.

Based on the change in resistance per degree K for Tungsten the relative temperature of the element at 4V and 8V MAY be able to be estimated.
delta change per degree K is usually valid over a small delta T compared to T absoliute. This allows linear multiplication of the coefficient by delta T. For large excursions of temperature use of (1+k)^delta_t as a resistance change factor may be more appropriate.

I have used a delta-resistance per degree K of 0.0045 which is the value usually given at 25C. As this procedure is so 'rough' (*or worse :-) ) use of this value should be good enough.

R at 4V x 480A = V/I = 8.333 milliOhms
R at 8V x 390A = 20.5 MilliOhms.
Ratio of resistances = 20.5/8.333 =~ 2.5:1


Delta R with temperature per degree K = 0.0045/K
delta T for 2.5:1 change = 2.5/0.0045 =~ 555 C.
Suggested element temperature = 2000 + 555 = 2,555 C.


Delta R with temperature per degree K = 0.0045/K

(1+0.0045)^dT = 2.5
dt = log(2.5) / log(1.0045)
dT = 204C.

Element temperature = 2000 + 204 ~= 2200C.
Which is inside your spec.

- the cold temperature of the element is the same at all times, and
- if the current at and given voltage is the same on multiple runs and
- if the temperature sensor reports consistent values inside the intended range,
- Then - all MAY be well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Many thanks, Russell, for your very informative comments. In fact, it has made me reconsider several aspects. I think my controller has to be readjusted. Thank you once again. \$\endgroup\$ – Hayder Jan 8 '17 at 10:53

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