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Characterizing Microfluidic Operations Underlying an Electrowetting Heat Pipe on the International Space Station

[+] Author Affiliations
Enakshi Wikramanayake, Renee Hale, John Elam, Arjang Shahriari, Vaibhav Bahadur

University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

Angel R. Alvarez-Hernandez, Nathan Howard

NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

Paper No. IMECE2018-86223, pp. V007T09A019; 6 pages
  • ASME 2018 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 7: Fluids Engineering
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, November 9–15, 2018
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5210-1
  • Copyright © 2018 by ASME


Electrowetting heat pipes (EHPs) are a newly conceptualized class of heat pipes, wherein the adiabatic wick section is replaced by electrowetting-based pumping of the condensate (as droplets) to the evaporator. Specific advantages include the ability to transport high heat loads over long distances, low thermal resistance and power consumption, and the absence of moving mechanical parts. In this work, we describe characterization of key microfluidic operations (droplet motion and splitting) underlying the EHP on the International Space Station (ISS). A rapid manufacturing method was used to fabricate the electrowetting device on a printed circuit board. Key device-related considerations were to ensure reliability and package the experimental hardware within a confined space. Onboard the ISS, experiments were conducted to study electrowetting-based droplet motion and droplet splitting, by imaging droplet manipulation operations via pre-programmed electrical actuation sequences. An applied electric field of 36 Volts/um resulted in droplet speeds approaching 10 mm/s. Droplet splitting dynamics was observed and the time required to split droplets was quantified. Droplet motion data was analyzed to estimate the contact line friction coefficient. Overall, this demonstration is the first-ever electrowetting experiment in space. The obtained results are useful for future design of the EHP and other electrowetting-based systems for microgravity applications. The testing was performed under the Advanced Passive Thermal eXperiment (APTx) project, a project to test a suite of passive thermal control devices funded by the ISS Technology Demonstration Office at NASA JSC.

Copyright © 2018 by ASME



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