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Modeling of heat transfer and flow patterns in a Mechanically pumped

Loop Heat Pipe operating in Microgravity: Parametric Analysis with ANSYS

Md Shujan Ali
University of Nevada Reno

Sophisticated temperature control in outer space is essential for NASA space

operations in order to maintain stable temperature suitable for human activity, and
high-powered electronics. Current state of the art is single phase cooling loop. There
is demand of more cooling power without a significant increase in size or weight of
the cooling loop. Mechanically pumped Loop Heat Pipes offer the solution of
required thermal management with light-weight, precision, energy efficiency and
long distance heat transfer ability. The major components in this system are
Evaporator, Condenser, a mechanical pump and transport lines. Loop Heat Pipe is a
heat transfer device which utilize evaporation/condensation of the working fluid and
fluid is circulated through the capillary pumping of the porous wick situated in the
evaporator. Most of the Heat transfer in this system occurs via the process of phase
change. Since the phase change occurs in Evaporator and Condenser, it is the
primary focus for the two phase cooling loop design. In this proposed mechanically
pumped two-phase cooling loop, the added pump will provide capabilities to reach
the distributed heat loads while controlling the temperature to produce an
isothermal surface, and compensate for the lack of bouncy force in microgravity
condition. Evaporator is the most important and sophisticated component of the
system. This work is focused on flow patterns and heat transfer in the evaporator
wick structure.
In a Loop Heat Pipe, thermal and Hydrodynamic mechanisms
between its various components are strongly coupled in a complex manner. As an
example, pressure dynamics and temperature instabilities, are sometimes found
experimentally after changes in operational conditions. These instabilities can lead
to various types of failure, like evaporator wick dry-out, Temperature oscillations,
inferior performance, which should be avoided. Steady state models are useful to
predict LHP performance for change of various parameters. Flow patterns and heat
transfer in the LHP evaporator for various working fluid, flow rate of working fluid,
wick material, porosity and permeability of wick, heat flux, value and orientation of
gravity, groove geometry and groove orientation is studied. In this work, a CFD
model has been developed to predict performance of LHP due to change in these
parameters. The evaporator wick is modeled as 2D, and symmetry is employed to
simplify the problem. The Volume of Fluid (VOF) model in ANSYS Fluent version 17.0
was modified using a User Defined Function (UDF) to calculate mass transfer
between the liquid and vapor phases in the interface. Lee model was used to
calculate the mass flux due to evaporation and condensation at the interface. The
results of this model will be validated against existing literature.
The evaporator wick was modeled as a 1 cm 3 domain in ANSYS
FLUENT. The geometry was created using ANSYS DesignModeler, and Mesh was
created using ANSYS Meshing. Pressure based solver and SIMPLE [Semi-Implicit
Method for Pressure-Linked Equations] algorithm are used throughout all the
simulations. One of the parameters is changed, when the others are kept constant
to observe effects of the changing parameter on the overall LHP performance. Steel
(thermal conductivity 16) and stainless steel (thermal conductivity 202) are tested
to observe effect of wick material or thermal conductivity of the wick. Wick porosity
of 40% and 60% was simulated, and it was observed that increasing porosity
enables better circulation of working fluid and more evaporative cooling. In ANSYS
FLUENT permeability is modeled as viscous resistance which is inverse of
permeability. Wick viscous resistance of 1e11 and 1e13 was investigated. Working
fluid flow rate of 1e-6 Kg/s and 1e-4 Kg/s was tested, and it was observed that flow
rate must be tuned precisely to get desired evaporative cooling. Temperature of the
evaporator cooling plate for heating loads ranging from 6W/cm 2 to 10W/cm2 is
obtained, and this is compared with that for single phase cooling loop. Selection of
working fluid depends on the systems operating pressure and desired cooling
effect. The LHP will be simulated for water and ammonia. The shape of vapor pillars
can facilitate escape of vapor from wick to vapor groove while delivering same
amount of evaporative cooling. Vapor pillars shaped as square and trapezoid will be
simulated to observe their contribution to the overall system performance.
Elevation and tilt (value of gravitational acceleration g) is an important parameter
for LHP operations, and this LHP is targeted to work in microgravity. So, the LHP is
simulated for gravity (g=9.81 m/s 2), no gravity (no g), and flip gravity (g=-9.81
m/s2, evaporator is kept upside down) condition. In LHP evaporator, heat transfer is
largely due to evaporation only. Effect of condensation inside the porous wick is also
simulated, and it is observed that effect of condensation is negligible.
Modelling of LHP using ANSYS FLUENT facilitate better visualization,
and help to observe the flow patterns and Temperature field throughout the whole
domain. This work will give detail insight about effect and importance of each
parameters on the overall LHP system performance. The overall objective of this
work is to study thermal and Hydrodynamic mechanisms of LHP, and facilitate
future works related to design and applications of related technology.