Low-Gravity Flow Boiling on Modern Textured Surfaces

PI: Steven Collicott, Purdue University

The focus of this flight test is to test the performance of a proven 1-g technology in weightlessness, specifically the technology of textured boiling surfaces in the flow boiling geometry needed for spaceflight phase-change heat transfer systems. The aim is to fly a payload built in 2013 and flown in June 2014 so as to further document performance of the textured boiling surface technology in low gravity. In this process additional data useful for system design at the low-power end will be acquired. Research on separation on textured surfaces in 1-g by several groups motivates this work. The Earth-based research drove the selection of the test surfaces in the present work because the selected surfaces showed promise for performance enhancement in 1-g flow boiling systems.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA14 Thermal Management Systems
Problem Statement

Phase-change heat transfer loops complement heat-pipes, capillary-pumped loops, etc., by surpassing heat-pipe capacity but at the expense of greater complexity. Texture boiling surfaces will be tested on the parabolic flights to document or disprove enhancement of boiling performance as seen in 1-g applications of textured surfaces. If successful this technology will expand the operating range of pumped two-phase heat transfer loops in spaceflight as is being observed on Earth.

Technology Maturation

Specific flight test objectives are to produce comparisons of low-g flow boiling inception and bubble removal on modern textured surfaces compared to smooth surfaces. The payload is the same as in a previous flight in the NASA student program. The proposed work fills gaps in earlier test results and extends the testing.

Future Customers

The technology is relevant to the low-gravity conditions of spaceflight, including LEO, asteroid, lunar, Martian, and other missions. There are on-Earth applications for the technology, at least one company already markets aqueous foam for blast protection. The use of this technology in spaceflight is, to the best of the proposer’s knowledge, unexplored.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    REDDI-F1-14 (Apr 2015)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 2 Parabolic

Development Team

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