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A Novel Device Addressing Design Challenges for Passive Fluid Phase Separations Aboard Spacecraft


Capillary solutions have long existed for the control of liquid inventories in spacecraft fluid systems such as liquid propellants, cryogens and thermal fluids for temperature control. Such large length scale, ‘low-gravity,’ capillary systems exploit container geometry and fluid properties—primarily wetting—to passively locate or transport fluids to desired positions for a variety of purposes. Such methods have only been confidently established if the wetting conditions are known and favorable. In this paper, several of the significant challenges for ‘capillary solutions’ to low-gravity multiphase fluids management aboard spacecraft are briefly reviewed in light of applications common to life support systems that emphasize the impact of the widely varying wetting properties typical of aqueous systems. A restrictive though no less typifying example of passive phase separation in a urine collection system is highlighted that identifies key design considerations potentially met by predominately capillary solutions. Sample results from novel scale model prototype testing aboard a NASA low-g aircraft are presented that support the various design considerations.

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Weislogel, M.M., Thomas, E.A. & Graf, J.C. A Novel Device Addressing Design Challenges for Passive Fluid Phase Separations Aboard Spacecraft. Microgravity Sci. Technol 21, 257 (2009).

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  • Capillary flow
  • Microgravity
  • Partial wetting
  • Capillary vane structures
  • Passive phase separations
  • Two-phase flow
  • Aqueous systems
  • Life support systems
  • Urine Processing